A writer stuck on a script. An artist staring at a blank page. A composer who can’t quite figure out what the next notes should be.
In this edition of This Is Your Brain – The Guided Tour, we ask; is there anything that helps creative types actually create?
The question has probably been around for as long as human civilization. Through the ages, many artists have tried to answer it with mind-altering substances, from absinthe to LSD.
Could hallucinogens be the ultimate muse for creative types?
A study released in 2018 by researchers at Leiden University in the Netherlands investigated how micro-doses of magic mushrooms – fungi containing psychedelic substances such as psilocybin – affected cognitive brain function. Would the mushrooms spark unconstrained thought processes that could lead to new, creative ideas?
The test group: 36 people at an event organized by the Psychedelic Society of The Netherlands (one wonders what their holiday parties are like…)
Participants were tested on their ability to perform several tasks before and after consuming minute amounts of dried psychedelic mushrooms. (Remember – these are psychedelic professionals – please don’t try this at home.)
The results revealed a range of effects. The participants showed improvement in their convergent thinking – which is their ability to focus on a single solution. Interestingly, their divergent thinking – the ability to come up with more than one way to solve the problem – also improved. However, the participants’ intelligence scores and general analytical abilities showed no change at all.
The upshot? Micro-doses of magic mushrooms may enhance a creative performance but won’t increase basic creative abilities. In other words, if you’ve never played the piano, taking some ‘shrooms won’t turn you into Mozart.
So, until our next episode of This Is Your Brain – The Guided Tour, Keep on practicing!
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