How does creativity unleash itself in the human brain? There are many theories, none of which are plausible except perhaps the fact that the Almighty must have selected very few of us to have the privilege of an advanced brain at birth in the form of an endowment. Who knows why this is as mysterious as the Creation itself.

However, in our limited comprehension some of us believe that if you are looking for a flash of inspiration, otherwise known as creativity, you might find it at the bottom of a glass of wine. Alcohol can help us think more creatively by freeing up the brain to think in a different way, a study has found.

It does not require industrial strength quantities such as those enjoyed by poet Dylan Thomas or actor Oliver Reed. But the equivalent of a pint of beer or a small glass of wine helps unleash creativity, Austrian scientists found. Lead author, Dr Mathias Benedek, from the University of Graz, said: ‘Alcohol is so linked to creativity and great writers like Ernest Hemingway. Previous research has found almost half of the great writers had a history of drinking. We found that a small drink can indeed help with certain aspects of creativity, although it may make hard focused work more difficult, so it might well work for someone who is sitting down to do creative writing or brainstorming ideas in a boardroom.’

The researchers gave 70 people normal and non-alcoholic beer which they were unable to distinguish between. They were asked to do word association tasks such as determining the word linking ‘Swiss’, ‘Blue’ and ‘cake’. Those who had drunk alcohol were more likely to get the answer right – ‘cheese’. They also did slightly better in a creative thinking task where they were asked how a tyre could be used. The answer of a ‘lampshade’ was graded as less creative than a ‘swing’.

However, the authors stress the finding for the second task was not statistically significant. The study, published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition, also found that those who had drunk alcohol had less ‘cognitive control’ and focus. This was the case even with the blood alcohol concentration of 0.03 per cent, which is equivalent to slightly less than a pint of beer; however, the payoff was the boost in creative thinking.

Dr Benedek said: ‘There are two theories for how this works, the first being that when you are really focusing on solving a problem, you can become fixated so that your mind gets stuck on one way of addressing it. Alcohol makes it more difficult to keep all the parameters of the task in mind, but that can also help you come from another direction… The second theory is that alcohol, which is distracting from the central task, allows you to tap into your unconscious mind and find alternative solutions.’

As I said at the outset, theories galore of how the brain operates are still a great mystery and any suggestions otherwise are hard to give them credence, unless the complex enigma of the Creation is resolved and humans miraculously evolve being its perpetrator.

One response to “IN VINO VERITAS?

  1. Anthony Mathews

    I studied Dylan THOMAS at school in the late sixties, well at least I thought I did, until I looked again in my fifties, and realized what he was about. Maybe we can have a chat over dinner when you are in London next. Regards, Tony. (Dr. Anthony Mathews)