Modulation of creativity by transcranial direct current stimulation.

Hertenstein, Elisabeth; Waibel, Elena; Frase, Lukas; Riemann, Dieter; Feige, Bernd; Nitsche, Michael A; Kaller, Christoph P; Nissen, Christoph (2019). Modulation of creativity by transcranial direct current stimulation. Brain stimulation, 12(5), pp. 1213-1221. Elsevier 10.1016/j.brs.2019.06.004

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BACKGROUND Creativity is the use of original ideas to accomplish something innovative. Previous research supports the notion that creativity is facilitated by an activation of the right and/or a deactivation of the left prefrontal cortex. In contrast, recent brain imaging studies suggest that creativity improves with left frontal activation. OBJECTIVE The present study was designed to further elucidate the neural basis of and ways to modulate creativity, based on the modulation of prefrontal cortical activity through the non-invasive brain stimulation technique transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). METHODS Ninety healthy University students performed three tasks on major aspects of creativity: conceptual expansion (Alternate Uses Task, AUT), associative thinking (Compound Remote Associate Task, CRA), and set shifting ability (Wisconsin Card Sorting Task, WCST). Simultaneously, they received cathodal stimulation of the left and anodal stimulation of the right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), the reverse protocol, or sham stimulation. RESULTS The main pattern of results was a superior performance with bilateral left cathodal/right anodal stimulation, and an inferior performance in the reversed protocol compared to sham stimulation. As a potential underlying physiological mechanism, resting state EEG beta power, indicative of enhanced cortical activity, in the right frontal area increased with anodal stimulation and was associated with better performance. CONCLUSION The findings provide new insights into ways of modulating creativity, whereby a deactivation of the left and an activation of the right prefrontal cortex with tDCS is associated with increased creativity. Potential future applications might include tDCS for patients with mental disorders and for healthy individuals in creative professions.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > University Psychiatric Services > University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy > Translational Research Center

UniBE Contributor:

Hertenstein, Elisabeth and Nissen, Christoph








Elisabeth Hertenstein

Date Deposited:

30 Aug 2019 14:28

Last Modified:

25 Oct 2019 00:07

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Creativity Electroencephalography Flexibility Frontal cortex Transcranial direct current stimulation




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