alpha oscillations a mechanism for inhibiting obvious associations

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

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 12 26;115(52):E12144-E12152

Authors: Luft CDB, Zioga I, Thompson NM, Banissy MJ, Bhattacharya J

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.

PMID: 30541890 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

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