Being creative doesn't always come easy, even for artists. However, nootropics for creativity may be able to give us all some inspiration.
Creativity is complex, involving many areas of the brain. In this guide, we'll discuss what drives creative brain functions, what hinders creativity, and how some nootropics may help anyone to get in a more productive creative zone.
What is Creativity?
Creativity involves transforming old ideas, perceptions and experiences into new ideas, products, solutions, art, etc. It happens when multiple parts of the brain connect to combine old experiences, ideas and perceptions with new ones.<1>
Contrary to what you may have heard, creativity isn't isolated to one side of the brain. Instead, it involves various different neural connections from almost every part of the brain. Thus, the best nootropics for creativity may enhance multiple brain pathways.
You may be surprised to learn that memory is extremely important for creative thinking.
Memory's Role in Creativity
Memory is one cognitive function that plays a big part in the creative process. After all, creativity is the combination of new and old ideas. If we can't remember anything, how can we put new and old ideas together to make new ones?
Psychologists say the best creators have a "powerful and selective memory." Thus, if we want to help inspire creativity within ourselves, we should make sure our memory is working to its best ability. Part of this includes strengthening our ability to process, store and retrieve memories.
Actually, there are two different types of memories that get encoded and stored in the brain for future retrieval:
- Declarative memories
- Nondeclarative memories
Here's how they relate to creativity.
Declarative a.k.a. Explicit Memory
The declarative memory encodes and stores memories of conscious facts, events and dates. So, when we spew out the name George Washington after being asked who the first president was, it comes from our declarative memory.
Strengthening the declarative memory may improve our ability to encode, store and consciously retrieve facts, dates and events. This, in turn, may help us create more original ideas at a faster pace by giving us more information to work with.
Nondeclarative a.k.a. Implicit Memory
The nondeclarative memory encodes, stores and retrieves subconscious information like how to carry out tasks. For example, it's where we store memories like how to drive a car or ride a bike.
When we have enough experience working on certain tasks, we become able to do them without thinking. Thus, one study says the strength of our nondeclarative memory may be associated with our ability to slip into a creative flow state.
Creativity and Flow State
Flow is a state of relaxed yet focused and skilled attention characterized by theta and alpha waves in the brain.<2>
It's when we become completely involved in a satisfying task or activity, so much so that we don't notice how much time is passing by.
The flow state can occur when our skill levels match up with our goals to complete a task.
For example, have you ever been driving a car and suddenly felt like you hadn't been paying attention for a while? Maybe time passed by without you even noticing?
When we press subconscious, nondeclarative memories into our brains hard enough through experience, we start to access them without even trying. This is how flow state works.
In regard to creativity, the flow state is a known common denominator for successful creations, which is why it's so relevant.
Divergent thinking is another common denominator that is intimately linked to the flow state. We'll discuss their relationship below.
Divergent vs. Convergent Thinking
Divergent and convergent thinking are thinking styles people use to generate ideas.
Divergent thinking is the act of generating ideas in a random, unorganized manner.
For example, brainstorming is a form of divergent thinking. In fact, many experts use divergent thinking tests to measure creativity.
Convergent thinking is when we organize divergent ideas into a logical, organized pattern.
Convergent and divergent thinking both tend to occur during flow state.<3> Thus, we can speculate these thinking styles work together to help us create new ideas during flow state.
Below, we'll discuss the brain functions associated with flow state and creativity.
How Does the Brain Foster Creativity?
The process of creativity has not necessarily been isolated in the brain. This is because creativity is a trial-and-error process of connecting different neural pathways to generate new ideas. Thus, it's difficult to pinpoint consistencies.
However, one of the most recent studies on creativity from a neural and genetic standpoint found that "strong top-down control vs. weak bottom-up processes underlie creativity."<4>
So, what is top-down vs. bottom-up processing? Basically, they are two different brain processes that moderate perception to foster creative performance.
Top-down processing involves using what we already know about something to analyze specific patterns about it. In other words, it's when our thought-processes are influenced by preconceived ideas from past experiences.
- For example, writers who overlook mistakes while proofreading their work may be experiencing the effects of top-down processes. The brain ends up filling in the blanks based on what it already knows, which can leave room for error.
In this sense, top-down processing may hinder our ability to solve problems creatively.
Relatively, one study says creative success is actually associated with weak top-down processing and weak cognitive flexibility, contrary to the study mentioned above.
Bottom-up processing involves encoding and storing external stimuli in our memories without using preconceived knowledge to analyze it. It's when our immediate perception of new stimuli influences our cognitive awareness of the stimuli, instead of the opposite.
We use bottom-up processing as a way to analyze details about things we aren't aware of. Its goal is to help us understand new stimuli so we can make a "response decision." This response decision may very well be a new creative idea or endeavor.
GABA, Glutamate and Creativity
Our use of bottom-up and top-down processes is controlled by competition between the brain chemicals glutamate and GABA. GABA and glutamate are inhibitory brain chemicals that balance the activity of any neurons they bind to.<5>
For example, they may balance brain chemicals like acetylcholine, dopamine and serotonin to support learning and memory. They can also buffer the stress hormone cortisol, which may relieve stress and anxiety while improving focus for creativity.
Dopamine and Creativity
One study says the neurotransmitter dopamine may affect brain functions associated with creativity. In other words, we might be able to access creativity easier by modulating the production of dopamine. Thus, it may be worth it to experiment with smart drugs that play a role in regulating this brain chemical.
- As a bonus, dopamine helps support motivation, which is also key for the creative process and ultimate creative productivity.
Acetylcholine and Creativity
Acetylcholine is a brain chemical that may help us encode memories easier in order to store and retrieve them easier. Thus, nootropics that boost acetylcholine may improve our ability to reference and combine new and old ideas for creative endeavors.
Alpha Waves and Creativity
Alpha wave activity is one of the most consistent brain functions associated with creativity.
For example, one study on improvisational dancers vs. professional dancers shows a "relationship between EEG alpha wave activity and creative thinking" in improv dancers vs. professional dancers.
Another study states that alpha waves have shown to increase when we produce creative ideas. It may have something to do with us switching our conscious attention from outward to inward. In other words, alpha waves are associated with imagination and introspection, which seems to be necessary for creativity.
Can Anyone be Creative?
With the right mindset and cognitive support, anyone can be creative in different aspects of their lives. One way we can improve creativity is by determining and avoiding what hinders it.
What Hinders Creativity?
Research shows creativity can be hindered by multiple cognitive risk factors. Here's a list of behaviors and brain functions that may be stopping you from fulfilling your creative potential.
Focusing on One Correct Answer or Technique
Focusing on one traditional answer or problem-solving technique may also hinder creative potential.
Creativity involves keeping the mind as open as possible to create new connections. Thus, a narrow mindset can stop the brain from exploring new avenues and considering uncommon ideas.
The Expert Trap
Similarly, the expert trap deals with an attitude we sometimes slip into as managers, parents and any role in which we become "experts." Once we have enough experience doing things a certain way, we begin to trap ourselves in our ways. Thus, we leave little room for original thought in that area because we believe "we know it all."
- When we become "experts," we tend to become closed off, switching from experimental, open-minded thinking to the opposite.
Creative thinkers must avoid the Expert Trap because closed-mindedness is a flat-out creativity killer.
Stress can also hinder creativity. When we're stressed out, production of the stress hormone cortisol can block us from concentrating and retrieving memories necessary for original thought. Thus, mediating our response to cortisol and promoting relaxation may be helpful for creative exploration.
Mind Lab Pro® Nootropics for Creativity
If you've tried everything and still can't seem to generate new ideas, you may need to look outside of the box for a solution: Nootropic brain supplements.
Mind Lab Pro® nootropics for creativity optimize multiple brain pathways for peak mental performance, thus offering broad-spectrum support for the complex cognitive functions that underlie creative thinking.
These nootropics can help with things like stress reduction, cognition, memory, relaxation and focus to widen your access to creative ideas.
However, we can speculate that boosting certain brain functions with nootropics may be very helpful for the creative process based on what we know.
L-Theanine is an amino acid well-known to induce alpha brain wave activity for creative individuals.
For example, one study shows it may allow us to stay calm yet focused over long periods of time during hard tasks. As such, it may be very helpful for creativity.
L-Theanine can be found in green and black tea and is one of the most well-researched nootropics out there. In fact, Monks have been consuming it for thousands of years to relax and concentrate for optimized meditation.
Studies also show L-Theanine can relax excitable brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin by promoting inhibitory chemicals like GABA.<6> GABA helps inhibit excitatory neurons and may help reduce reactions to stress hormones, according to a study.
Ultimately, L-theanine may reduce stress and induce focused relaxation to help painters, musicians, writers and all creators generate unique works.
Bacopa Monnieri is an Ayurvedic adaptogen herb that may help with creativity. It is also known as Brahmi after Lord Brahma, a creator God in Hinduism.
Brahmi is known to provide bacosides, which are chemical combinations that may help with memory, learning and other high order brain processes involved in creativity.<7> These effects may come from acetylcholine support, stress mediation and other beneficial brain functions provided by bacosides.
Bacopa Monnieri may also help creators like designers, photographers, writers and musicians retain new information. This is helpful because the more information we retain, the more options we have to make new idea combinations.
Phosphatidylserine is one of the best nootropic supplements on the market. It supports long and short-term memory, stress mediation, balanced mood and better focus, all of which may help with creativity. Animal studies also show it may help activate acetylcholine production, which supports the encoding of memories.<8>
- Another possible benefit of PS is its ability to buffer the release of cortisol in response to physical stress. These benefits may help creators concentrate, retrieve memories and uncover creative solutions faster under pressure.
A larger study confirms that PS supports short and long-term memory consolidation, focus, problem-solving, language-learning and communication. Thus, we can speculate PS may have positive effects on creative cognitive abilities.
Mind Lab Pro® nootropics for creativity support memory, relaxation, concentration and clarity for peak creative productivity.
- Mind Lab Pro®'s unique Universal Nootropic™ design helps to optimize healthy function throughout the whole brain -- including many aspects of mental performance that are related to creative thought.
While the mysteries of the muse may never be definitively answered, Mind Lab Pro®'s whole brain-boosting activity may help to inspire, power and sustain creativity in all types of people -- from creative problem solvers in a business setting, to musicians, writers, artists and more.
- How Creativity Works in the Brain. National Endowment for the Arts. July 2015.
- Katahira K e al. EEG Correlates of the Flow State: A Combination of Increased Frontal Theta and Moderate Frontocentral Alpha Rhythm in the Mental Arithmetic Task. Front. Psychol. 2018 Mar.
- Doyle CL. Creative Flow as a Unique Cognitive Process. Front Psychol. 2017; 8: 1348.
- Lui, Z et al. Neural and genetic determinants of creativity. Neuroimage. 2018 Mar 5. pii: S1053-8119(18)30174-5.
- Wu C and Sun D. GABA receptors in brain development, function, and injury. Metab Brain Dis. 2015 Apr; 30(2): 367–379.
- Mason R. L-Theanine Boosts Alpha Waves, Promotes Alert Relaxation. Alternative and Complementary Therapies. April 2001: 91-92.
- Stough C et al. The chronic effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi) on cognitive function in healthy human subjects. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2001 Aug;156(4):481-4.
- Pepeu G, Spignoli G. Nootropic drugs and brain cholinergic mechanisms.Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 1989;13 Suppl:S77-88.