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

Di Bernardi Luft, Caroline; Zioga, Ioanna; Thompson, Nicholas; Banissy, Michael J. and Bhattacharya, Joydeep. 2018. Right temporal alpha oscillations as a neural mechanism for inhibiting obvious associations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(52), E12144-E12152. ISSN 0027-8424 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

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 cortex alpha (10 Hz) 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.

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The authors were supported by the CREAM project that was been funded by the European Commission under Grant Agreement no 612022.


alpha oscillations, creativity, active inhibition, EEG, brain stimulation

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12 November 2018Accepted
12 December 2018Published Online
26 December 2018Published

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Date Deposited:

21 Nov 2018 10:59

Last Modified:

24 Mar 2021 18:22

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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