When we feel focused and concentrated on our work, it’s pretty obvious. There is a sensation and stimulation that we feel in the brain and body. When we improve our memory and learning ability, we can see the results on tests and other cognitive yardsticks. Anxiety is the same way; we measure how we feel and if we are doing better.
Creativity is much different. We may have an idea if we are being more creative, but it is challenging to be sure. The best nootropics for creativity have no measuring stick that we can gauge so it is up to scientific research to give us clues.
We’ll focus on the ultimate weapon that Silicon Valley and high level execs around the globe are using to improve their creative process. We’ll also provide some legal alternatives that have scientific backing.
The Brain on Fire: Creativity and LSD
A great signature of creativity within the brain is how much different regions are communicating with one another. The more engaged our brains can be to communicate outside the normal pathways, the more likely we are to come up with breakthrough solutions.
Of course, we don’t all have fMRI or QEEG brain mapping technologies at our home so it is up to modern scientific literature to do some of the work for us.
In some of the first fMRI brain scan studies on LSD, Dr. Carhart-Harris concluded that the brain lights up with activity in a way unseen from other drugs. According to Harris, “Normally our brain consists of independent networks that perform separate specialized functions, such as vision, movement, and hearing… However, under LSD the separateness of these networks breaks down and instead you see a more integrated or unified brain.”
In this TEDx talk, Carhart-Harris explains exactly how different parts of the brain communicate with one another while on LSD:
There is a lot of value in the “ego-dissolution” Carhart-Harris discusses in the video, but for creativity the power can be equally valuable. This is one of the reasons Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are microdosing LSD to get ahead.
Much of the reason microdosing has become popular is because of a study done in 1966 by Dr. James Fadiman. In this experiment, 27 intellectuals were told to bring a problem they were struggling to solve for 3 months without any solution. After administering the microdose (mescaline rather than LSD), participants found a huge boost in problem-solving skills and creativity.
In fact, 44.4% of the sample population had breakthrough solutions, which were patented technologies and other quantifiable results.
From both the early scientific inquiries into microdosing and the modern fMRI brain scans, it is obvious that the best nootropics for creativity are psychedelics. Unfortunately, they are illegal and challenging to acquire at present.
Best Nootropics for Creativity: What Does it Take?
Creativity means many things to many people. A serious, in-depth inquiry into the topic of creativity can be found in Dan Eagleman’s book The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World, but for our purposes a simple explanation can suffice.
To enhance creativity we often want to increase our working memory, which is a skill that allows us to hold multiple perspectives or ideas and then combine them in different ways. This is often referred to and considered “lateral thinking”.
Interestingly, lateral thinking is often the opposite of traditional stimulants. Amphetamine based drugs like adderall, caffeine, and others create an ability to focus (similar to tunnel vision), but can detract from our creative abilities.
The following list of legal nootropics for creativity can help increase lateral thinking and help with breakthrough solutions.
Legal Nootropics for Creativity
In an interview with the Smart Drug Smarts host, Jesse Lawler mentioned using aniracetam as a go-to tool for creativity and lateral thinking. Because of the fast acting nature of aniracetam and interaction with the cholinergic system, there are benefits that aid in creativity. There are also scientific benefits that aniracetam can improve memory formation and reduce anxiety as well, which is why we are such big proponents.
The combination of added focus and concentration plus alpha brain waves makes phenylpiracetam an ideal nootropic for creativity. In the nootropics documentary A Head Above, Mansal Denton uses a QEEG administered by neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Hill and finds that phenylpiracetam is a perfect nootropic for creativity.
Beyond synthetic racetams, other cholinergic options can be effective for creativity as well. Huperzine A is an extract from huperzia serrata, and is a powerful acetylcholinesterase inhibitor (meaning it helps increase acetylcholine in the brain). Numerous people including Aubrey Marcus and Joe Rogan find this to be the key ingredient in Alpha Brain creating a sense of added creativity.
Fans of modafinil love the stimulation and intense focus that comes with the drug, but don’t often recognize the benefits on working memory. As mentioned previously, improving working memory does wonders for creativity and multiple studies show modafinil can help. The American Journal of Addiction published a 2012 study showing that modafinil improves working memory. Another 2004 study in Psychopharmacology suggested the working memory benefits are less pronounced, but still beneficial.
Creativity: Getting Started
Depending on where you live in the world, many of these options will not be available to you legally. We do not recommend doing anything illegal, but it is compelling to see the plethora of modern science showing that these substances are effective.
For those who want to “play it safe”, stick to the legal options we have mentioned within this article and you will see a boost in creative output.
Finally, consider how every aspect of your life influences your creativity. Sure, nootropics are a great way to boost creativity, but how creative will you be if the project you’re working on does not resonate or satisfy? Sometimes the best way to be creative is to find something that doesn’t simply “pay the bills”, but instead is what you genuinely desire to pursue.