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Penn research shows that suppressing the brain's 'filter' can improve performance in creative tasks
Date:3/14/2013

The brain's prefrontal cortex is thought to be the seat of cognitive control, working as a kind of filter that keeps irrelevant thoughts, perceptions and memories from interfering with a task at hand.

Now, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have shown that inhibiting this filter can boost performance for tasks in which unfiltered, creative thoughts present an advantage.

The research was conducted by Sharon Thompson-Schill, the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology and director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, and Evangelia Chrysikou, a member of her lab who is now an assistant professor at the University of Kansas. They collaborated with Roy Hamilton and H. Branch Coslett of the Department of Neurology at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine and Abhishek Datta and Marom Bikson of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the City College of New York.

Their work was published in the journal Cognitive Neuroscience.

Previous studies have shown that the prefrontal cortex in particular, the left prefrontal cortex is one important area of the brain that supports cognitive control. As a test of whether reduced cognitive control might be advantageous in some circumstances, Thompson-Schill's team designed an experiment that involved inhibiting the activity of the left prefrontal cortex in adults while they completed a creative task.

In this task, participants are shown pictures of everyday objects and are asked to quickly come up with uses for them that are out of the ordinary, such as using a baseball bat as a rolling pin. Participants see a sequence of 60 objects, one every nine seconds, and the researchers measure how long it takes for them to come up with a valid response, or if they are unable to do so before the next picture appears.

The researchers hypothesized that high levels of cognitive control would be a detriment to coming up with these kinds of uncommo
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Contact: elerner@upenn.edu
elerner@upenn.edu
215-573-6604
University of Pennsylvania
Source:Eurekalert  

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Penn research shows that suppressing the brain's 'filter' can improve performance in creative tasks
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