Creative thinking is referred to as divergent thinking. It is the state of imaginative trajectory or flow where one can “see” and extract the right solutions for the problem the brain is working on from the infinite ocean.
The solutions can be overwhelming—not a compilation of past experiences but something completely new and impressive. And one can capture a multitude of them in various forms and content.
Often, it is said that one must switch off the mind to access the ocean where these solutions reside, meaning to switch off logic and analysis. This is also suggested by studies on the acute phase of Ayahuasca’s effects (Kuypers et al., 2016).
An hour before and after Ayahuasca ingestion, the participants’ creativity levels were evaluated using specific tasks.
Data analysis showed a significant increase in divergent thinking while logical thinking was simultaneously attenuated.
After analyzing their data and comparing it with other studies, the researchers suggested that Ayahuasca reorganizes the connections between different brain regions, thereby intensifying the activity of the structures responsible for creativity.
The brain regions involved in thinking interact with each other through specialized neural loops, which can be likened to railway tracks.
The electrical impulse is directed to where the path is open.
Creative thinking is activated when the path associated with internal brain processes is open. One can say it leads to the “door to the ocean of infinity.”
Meanwhile, the “track section” through which information from the external world comes is closed.
The brain dispatcher, the metaphorical switcher of the neural tracks, is a specific structure called the Salience Network (SN).
This dispatcher attentively monitors everything happening both outside and inside the body, deciding where attention is more crucial and what the brain should focus on.
The scientists found that after Ayahuasca ingestion, increased blood flow was observed in the SN area, indicating heightened neural activity in that region.
Ayahuasca also reduces the flow of information from the sensory organs externally. This causes the SN to believe that it is now more important to switch the “railway arrows” towards activating creative areas.
Simultaneously, there is a transient disruption of the neural hierarchies: top-down control is reduced, and bottom-up information transmission is enhanced. This is confirmed by specific changes in electroencephalography (EEG) waves, indicating a decrease in cognitive control and strict control of the mind.
As a result of what obstructed creativity—the logical control and rationality aspect, which we refer to as the “mind”—being switched off, one can freely dive into the ocean of creative ideas and answers.
This “switching off” of the mind may be the reason for associations and enlightenments that occur during Ayahuasca ingestion.
So, what comes next? How long does the flight of creative thinking last, and what happens to logical thinking afterward? We will discuss this in the upcoming parts.
Kuypers, K.P.C., Riba, J., de la Fuente Revenga, M. et al. Ayahuasca enhances creative divergent thinking while decreasing conventional convergent thinking. Psychopharmacology 233, 3395–3403 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-016-4377-8
This article is a part of our series about effects of Ayahuasca on thinking and other brain functions:
About Ayahuasca and other plants: