Electrical Stimulation of the Brain May Spark Insight

WEDNESDAY Feb. 2, 2011 -- Electrical stimulation of the brain can bring a flash of insight that can help people solve new, difficult problems, research suggests.

Investigators in Australia found that volunteers who received electrical stimulation of the brain's anterior temporal lobes were three times more likely to be able to figure out a challenging, unfamiliar problem than participants in a control group.

Many people have difficulty achieving creative leaps needed to solve new problems because they tend to stick to strategies and insights that have been successful before, study authors Richard Chi and Allan Snyder, from the Center for the Mind at the University of Sydney, explained in a news release from the Public Library of Science.

The use of "transcranial direct current stimulation" temporarily increases or decreases the activity of populations of brain cells, the study authors said. This safe, noninvasive technique can be used to manipulate the competition between the left and right hemispheres of the brain by inhibiting and/or activating certain networks, they explained.

According to Chi and Snyder, the right anterior temporal lobe is associated with insight or finding new meaning, and the inhibition of activity in the left anterior temporal lobe can lead to thinking that is less likely to be influenced by preconceptions. However, the authors noted that more research is needed.

The study is published online Feb. 2 in the journal PLoS One.

More information

The Whole Brain Atlas explains more about the anatomy of the brain.

Posted: February 2011


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