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From Ray Charles to Carl Sagan, the most celebrated minds have claimed that cannabis helps with creativity. It's not just well-known celebrities either. Most people would say that cannabis has helped them become more creative at one point or another.
The problem with creativity is that it's challenging to study and measure. There's no scale or test to see if someone becomes more creative while under the influence of cannabis.
This makes it challenging to link cannabis and creativity from a scientific perspective. However, THC and CBD are well studied, and a pile of evidence proves their diverse and powerful medicinal properties.
What do the studies have to say about cannabis and creativity? Does cannabis really enhance our creative side?
Read along to learn whether or not cannabis can unlock your creative potential.
What Is Creativity?
Before we begin, we need to clear up what the definition of creativity actually is. Creativity is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but what is it precisely?
Creativity is generally accepted to be the phenomenon where something new is formed. That something can be non-physical like an idea, music, a theory, a problem-solving tactic, or even a meme.
It can also be something physical like a writing, a painting, or something like an invention. However, scientists and researchers have yet to find out how creativity happens.
Some academics believe that it's the result of intelligence, wisdom, imagination, and even the subconscious part of the brain all working together. Creativity is involved with so many different thought processes that it's hard to say exactly what it is.
Therefore, creativity is in the eye of the beholder.
Where Is Creativity?
"...the region [in the brain] that is almost always stimulated during a highly creative state is the prefrontal cortex (PFC)."
While academics have a hard time defining what creativity is, scientists have set off to find out where it comes from. For the past 50 years, scientists have performed many experiments to answer the questions posed.
With the development of MRI and other brain scans, scientists were finally able to see which brain areas become most active during creativity. In many studies, scientists had people perform different creative tasks while undergoing brain scans.
It turns out that multiple areas of the brain are stimulated during different types of creative tasks. However, the region that is almost always stimulated during a highly creative state is the prefrontal cortex (PFC).
The PFC is a region that covers the front area of the frontal lobe. Researchers have suspected the frontal lobe for many years because of its role in complex planning, decision making, and personality expression.
The Connection Between Cannabis and Creativity
Subjectively, we can say that cannabis enhances creativity, and objectively we know (mostly) where creativity happens in the brain. Scientists have tried to bridge the gap on how exactly cannabis might be able to enhance creativity.
Increased Cerebral Blood Flow
First, scientists understand that THC can increase blood flow by decreasing blood pressure. Scientists then found that THC can change the blood flow in specific brain regions.
That makes sense because THC mostly binds to endocannabinoid receptors found in the brain.
It turns out that increased blood flow in the brain usually goes hand in hand with brain function. Meaning, wherever there's increased blood flow, there's higher activity in that brain region.
The most exciting finding is that cannabis increased blood flow most often in the frontal lobe area of the brain. That means now there's a concrete connection between cannabis effects and the creative part of the brain.
Increased Dopamine Levels
"...dopamine doesn't just magically make us smarter, it changes our perception of our surroundings."
Cannabis also increases the levels of dopamine found in the brain. Dopamine is a natural neurotransmitter that affects many behaviors like mood, motivation, learning, and much more.
Dopamine is also known as the "feel-good neurotransmitter" because it contributes to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. When we feel euphoric after smoking, it's due to the added dopamine in our brains.
It turns out that dopamine is also suspected of playing a role in the creative process. Dopamine can do this by making us more open to new ways of doing things.
Since dopamine is involved with motivation, increased levels can help us seek different ways of completing a task. Basically, dopamine lets us approach a problem differently than we would if we were sober.
However, dopamine doesn't just magically make us smarter, it changes our perception of our surroundings. It might be dopamine causing us to see things differently when we're high.
Since dopamine allows us to look at the world a little differently, we can come up with new and creative ideas. The reason that dopamine can do this is by decreasing our latent inhibition.
Simply put, latent inhibition is our capacity to ignore stimuli unimportant to our needs at that moment. For example, imagine sitting at your computer, focusing on writing a paper. You're probably not paying much attention to what's going on with your legs.
Heightened dopamine levels remove our latent inhibition, freeing our senses to become more aware of everything. It also lends us to become more impulsive, allowing us to be more open to things we usually might not attempt.
So Does Cannabis Increase Creativity?
"The answer to this question lies in a tangled mess of research connecting brain physiology, psychology, and cannabis pharmacology."
The short answer is, we don't know yet. However, the long answer is most likely yes, but we need more evidence first.
The other problem with answering this question is that scientists aren't sure about defining creativity in the first place. Also, creativity comes in many different forms, and while cannabis might be beneficial to some types, it may not affect others.
In addition to all this complexity, there are many different types (strains) of cannabis. Some types might be more beneficial to creativity, while others won't help at all.
The answer to this question lies in a tangled mess of research connecting brain physiology, psychology, and cannabis pharmacology. We still have a limited understanding of most of these things, so the answer won't be objectively clear anytime soon.
In any case, if cannabis helps you become more creative, then there's no reason not to believe in it as a tool. After all, generations of musicians, inventors, writers, painters, and scientists are proof that cannabis and creativity go hand-in-hand.