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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Dec 26;115(52):E12144-E12152. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1811465115. Epub 2018 Dec 12.

Right temporal alpha oscillations as a neural mechanism for inhibiting obvious associations.

Author information

1
School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, London E1 4NS, United Kingdom; c.luft@qmul.ac.uk.
2
Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London, London SE14 6NW, United Kingdom.
3
School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, London E1 4NS, United Kingdom.
4
School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AH, United Kingdom.

Abstract

Creative cognition requires mental exploration of remotely connected concepts while suppressing dominant ones. Across four experiments using different samples of participants, we provide evidence that right temporal alpha oscillations play a crucial role in inhibiting habitual thinking modes, thereby paving the way for accessing more remote ideas. In the first experiment, participants completed the compound remote associate task (RAT) in three separate sessions: during right temporal alpha (10 Hz) transcranial alternating current brain stimulation (tACS), left temporal alpha tACS, and sham tACS. Participants performed better under right tACS only on RAT items in which two of the three words shared misleading semantic associations. In the second experiment, we measured EEG while the participants solved RAT items with or without shared misleading associations. We observed an increase in right temporal alpha power when participants correctly solved RAT items with misleading semantic associations. The third experiment demonstrated that while solving divergent thinking tasks participants came up with more remote ideas when stimulated by right temporal alpha tACS. In the fourth experiment, we found that participants showed higher right temporal alpha power when generating more remote uses for common objects. These studies altogether indicate that right temporal alpha oscillations may support creativity by acting as a neural mechanism for an active inhibition of obvious semantic associations.

KEYWORDS:

EEG; active inhibition; alpha oscillations; brain stimulation; creativity

PMID:
30541890
PMCID:
PMC6310824
[Available on 2019-06-26]
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1811465115

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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