Want to be a Genius? Try Zapping Your Brain | Smart News | Smithsonian
Current Issue
July / August 2014  magazine cover
Subscribe

Save 81% off the newsstand price!

Keeping you current

Want to be a Genius? Try Zapping Your Brain

Researchers are hoping to use electric jolts to jump start people's brains.

smithsonian.com

Goodbye studying, hello brain zapping. Image: JuditK

People do all sorts of things to try and get ahead. Students take Adderol, stay up all night studying, drink all sorts of strange RedBull-and-whatever-else concoctions. But what if you could zap your brain into shape?

Wired reports that one company, Creativitycap, thinks they can jolt your brain into action. Or at least make you act a bit more like a savant. The company’s visionary is Allan Snyder. He explained to Wired how he thinks our brains work:

Snyder hypothesizes that all people possess savant-like abilities in a dormant form, but that savants have “privileged access” to less-processed, lower-level information. In a normal brain, top-down controls suppress the barrage of raw data our brains take in, enabling us to focus on the big picture.

So to get your brain to act more like a savant’s brain you have to uncork the data, turn off the emergency break, and dive in. To do that, you need a hat that will shock your brain, of course.

This sounds really strange, but the strangest part is that it might actually do something. Participants in a study were presented with something called the nine dots problem. Here’s the game — I give you these nine dots:

The nine dots puzzle. Image: Blleininger

Your job is to connect all nine dots using just four straight lines without ever lifting up your pen or retracing a line. Try it. If you can’t do it, that’s okay, almost no one can. (Here’s the solution) But what if you tried it with the brain zapper? Wired reports:

Snyder and Chi had their subjects attempt to solve the problem while wearing an electrode cap. After a few minutes without brain stimulation, half of the subjects received stimulation while the other half received no stimulation. Here’s the interesting part: Whereas none of the subjects solved the problem before brain stimulation, more than 40 percent of subjects in the stimulation group solved the problem after being zapped. Talk about being struck by inspiration.

Maybe creativity really is like a lightbulb – flip the switch and voila!

 

More from Smithsonian.com

Combinatorial Creativity and the Myth of Originality 

Why We Don’t Like Creativity

About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

Read more from this author |

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus