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Universiteit Leiden

Boost your creativity!

Boost your creativity!

Sometimes we must be creative to solve an unusual problem. A promising natural way to enhance creativity may lie in a tyrosine-rich diet, since recent studies suggest that this could account for an increased ability of deep thinking.

Creativity is an importing cognitive ability and helps us in finding fast and efficient solutions for problems. It also enables us to create new content and opportunities by combining learned items und assembling them in new ways that have not existed yet. We make use of our creative potential in many day-to-day situations without consciously thinking about, because we are so used to this incredible ability.

However, a problem indeed arises when we find ourselves in situations when inspiration is simply lacking, and it seems that nothing could help to overcome this mental block.

It is often said that people who pursue creative hobbies or careers that require a specific degree of flexible thinking and imagination, are known to use various substances to maintain or stimulate their creativity. Substances like cocaine, alcohol or LSD  indeed help to boost this ability in the short term but at the cost of many negative side effects like addiction or physical problems.

So, what could be a better solution? In a recent study scientists claim that our favourite food could play an important role in enhancing creativity. Sound like a win-win situation.

In particular, this effect might be mediated by food that is high in tyrosine (TYR), such as bananas, soy products or fish. TYR is an essential amino acid and a precursor of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine, which are linked to reward processing, enhanced concentration and motor control. Studies with rats have shown that a TYR-rich diet increases the plasma TYR level and ergo improves the dopamine release in the brain.

The study conducted by Colzato and colleagues with human participants examined the effect of TYR-supplements on creativity. Healthy adults received a dose of 2 grams of TYR and were tested against participants that only received a placebo. The subjects completed the “remote associates task” which tested their ability of convergent or “deep” thinking, by presenting three unrelated words and asking to find a common associate. This task is considered to account for the creative process of generating a solution to a specific problem.

Surprisingly, participants with TYR supplement performed better than the placebo condition, suggesting that indeed TYR enhances some components of creativity, namely deep thinking. This effect could be mediated by the resulting boost of dopamine which is particular beneficial for “control-hungry” process, and therefore increases convergent thinking. Besides the stimulation of deep thinking, TYR was also shown to have effects on inhibiting overt responses and on the efficiency of our ability to process information.

Considering all these findings, one can say that TYR shows a variety of positive effects on creativity as well as on other cognitive functions that make us more efficient when it comes to problem solution. So, in order to keep our creativity, we can without guilt continue to top our pasta with too much parmesan, since it is one of the highest TYR containing food!

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