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

on on the scalp when it is first applied, so those in the third group received only a brief period of stimulation before the task began, rather than throughout.

As additional controls, each of these three groups was also split in half, with one set completing the uncommon-use task and the other simply stating what the object is normally used for. And all participants also completed a task that involved remembering strings of numbers, a common exercise in psychological experiments that has been shown not to require the prefrontal cortex.

"We wouldn't want to think that the stimulation affected everything," Thompson-Schill said. "So if we found an effect when participants were remembering numbers, we'd be worried about our interpretation of the data."

As expected, none of the experimental conditions affected participants' performance when asked to recall the sequences of numbers, or when they were asked to say the common uses of the objects they saw. But there was a marked difference between those who received tDCS to their left prefrontal cortex and those who didn't when completing the uncommon-use task.

The right prefrontal cortex and placebo groups couldn't come up with uncommon uses for an average of 15 out of 60 objects, whereas those whose left prefrontal cortices were being inhibited only missed an average of eight.

The latter group was also able to provide correct responses an average of a second faster than the former two.

"A second faster difference is huge in psychology research. We're used to seeing differences measured in milliseconds," Thompson-Schill said. This is probably the biggest effect I've seen over my 20 years in research."

These results lend credence to the idea that high levels of cognitive control may be a disadvantage in some circumstances, such as in early development.

"We differ from non-human primates in having a long period of immaturity in our prefrontal cor
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Contact: elerner@upenn.edu
elerner@upenn.edu
215-573-6604
University of Pennsylvania
Source:Eurekalert  

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