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Now, an electric thinking cap

Looking for ways to stimulate your brain? Researchers have found that it may be possible to stimulate the brain to see the world anew with the help of an electric thinking cap.

india Updated: Feb 03, 2011 12:36 IST

A University of Sydney study has found that it may be possible to stimulate the brain to see the world anew—an electric thinking cap.

Research by Richard Chi and Allan Snyder from the Centre for the Mind at the University of Sydney has found that participants who received electrical stimulation of the anterior temporal lobes were three times as likely to reach the fresh insight necessary to solve a difficult, unfamiliar problem than those in the control group.

According to the authors, our propensity to rigidly apply strategies and insights that have had previous success is a major bottleneck to making creative leaps in solving new problems. There is normally a cognitive tradeoff between the necessity of being fast at the familiar on one hand and being receptive to novelty on the other.

Chi and Snyder argued that we can modulate this tradeoff to our advantage by applying transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a safe, non-invasive technique that temporarily increases or decreases excitability of populations of neurons.

In particular, tDCS can be used to manipulate the competition between the left and right hemisphere by inhibiting and/or disinhibiting certain networks. Their findings are consistent with evidence that the right anterior temporal lobe is associated with insight or novel meaning and that inhibition of the left anterior temporal lobe can induce a cognitive style that is less top-down, less influenced by preconceptions.

The study has been published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE.