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Last Updated: 12.06.23

The Science of Creativity & How to Enhance Creative Innovation

Huberman explores the brain’s creative thinking process and tools to enhance creativity and innovation. Discusses convergent and divergent thinking, meditation (open monitoring, focused attention, NSDR), dopamine’s role, and behavioral, nutritional, and supplementation approaches.

Key Takeaways

High level takeaways from the episode.

Creativity is the ability to take existing elements from the physical world, the thought world, or any domain of life, mood, thinking, and information, and reorder them into novel combinations that are useful for something.

Creativity is a way of interacting with the world or combining or recombining things in the world in a way that appears novel to us and others. However, for something to be creative, it must reveal something fundamental about the world or how we work in a way that delights, thrills, and surprises us, even if we aren’t aware of what that fundamental rule is.

Neural circuits change when experiencing novel combinations, releasing dopamine and other neuromodulators.

Three major networks in the brain are responsible for creativity:

  1. Executive Network governs thinking and behavior through deliberate actions
  2. Default Mode Network important for spontaneous imagination and accessing memories of previous experiences
  3. Network pays attention to what is most interesting or relevant in the world or within oneself

Two elements of creativity: divergent thinking and convergent thinking.

Divergent thinking: generating multiple ideas from a single concept

  • Example: coming up with various scenarios based on a picture of someone running
  • Involves mental flexibility and suppressing context
  • Requires exploring ideas already existing in one’s memory

Convergent thinking: implementing specific combinations of ideas and testing their relevance or impact

  • Involves executive function and reducing options
  • Helps arrive at the most interesting and creative answer

Convergent Thinking requires more focus and persistence than divergent thinking, feels like solving a puzzle and relies on distinct brain circuits from divergent thinking.

Dopamine is responsible for both divergent and convergent thinking through separate pathways. Learning how to engage these pathways differentially helps to discover and test creative ideas.

Being in a good mood facilitates divergent thinking due to higher dopamine levels.

Combining open monitoring meditation (5–10 minutes) with focused attention meditation (5–10 minutes) can improve both divergent and convergent thinking.

Study with participants using Yoga Nidra/​​NSDR found a 65% increase in dopamine release and increased theta activity during this practice. Specifically in the nigrostriatal pathway, associated with divergent thinking.

Serotonin underlies brain activity responsible for both divergent and convergent thinking

  • 5‑HT2A receptor activation can favor both types of thinking
  • Microdosing psilocybin can enhance activation of serotonergic pathways

Study: “Exploring the Effect of Microdosing Psychedelics on Creativity in an Open Label Natural Setting” (2018) examined effects of psychedelic truffles on creativity-​​related problem-​​solving tasks. Enhanced divergent and convergent thinking due to increased 5‑HT2A receptor activity.

No evidence that alcohol increases creativity. Low doses can enhance divergent thinking by reducing activation of the prefrontal cortex. Suppresses autobiographical scripting (self-​​awareness, narratives about ourselves).

High THC cannabis can lead to enhanced divergent thinking. Often too enhanced, making it difficult to implement ideas into a coherent framework.

People with ADHD can focus if interested in the subject. Tend to be effective at divergent thinking, but less effective at convergent thinking.

Studies show people can engage in divergent thinking more effectively while pacing or walking.

Dopamine plays a significant role in focus, movement, and divergent thinking

Prescription drugs, supplements, and certain foods can increase dopamine levels

Engaging in Yoga Nidra/​​NSDR can selectively increase dopamine in the nigrostriatal pathway, promoting divergent thinking and creativity # Dopamine Elevation and Divergent Thinking through NSDR

NSDR (Non-​​Sleep Deep Rest) or Yoga Nidra-​​like practice can elevate dopamine levels

  • Dopamine elevation prepares the brain for divergent thinking
  • Increases mental imagery and access to a “library” of possible solutions

Practice involves lying motionless with eyes closed for 10–60 minutes

  • Focus on relaxation, long exhale breathing, and body scans
  • Aim to stay in a shallow plane of consciousness, not deep sleep

Recommendation: practice at least once per week for 20–30 minutes

  • Divergent thinking should occur in the hour or hours following the practice


Science-​​based tools and supplements that push the needle.

Open Monitoring Meditation To Enhance Divergent Thinking for Creativity


Focused Attention Meditation For Convergent Thinking for Creativity


Mood Calibration and Creativity


Caffeine and Creativity


Yoga Nidra/​​NSDR to Increase Divergent Thinking for Creativity


Walk or Engage in Physical Activity for Divergent Thinking for Creativity


Narrative Theory for Creativity



We recommend using this distillation as a supplemental resource to the source material.

  • The Science of Creativity & How to Enhance Creative Innovation

    Huberman Lab #103

    Huberman explores creative thinking, tools for enhancing creativity and innovation. Covers meditation, dopamine, behavioral approaches, movement, storytelling, and substance impact. Cultivate creativity in all areas of life.

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