Food for Creativity: Tyrosine Promotes Deeper Thinking in New Study

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food for creativity

Steve Jobs swore by a fruit diet, believing it improved his ability to concentrate, and he wasn’t wrong: food with high levels of tyrosine, such as bananas, peaches and almonds, may allow for deeper thinking, according to a new study published in the journal, Psychological Research.

A research team led by cognitive psychologist, Lorenza Colzato, found that test subjects given orange juice containing the amino acid L-tyrosine were better at solving puzzles than those who were given a placebo. According to Colzato, “Foods rich in tyrosine and supplements that include tyrosine are a healthy and cheap way to increase our ability to think deeply. For instance, students who have to sit for an exam can benefit from added tyrosine.”

The results of Colzato’s research support claims that specific foods can help creative people overcome mental obstacles. “Take a look, for instance, at former boss of Apple, Steve Jobs, one of the most creative minds of our time. He often claimed that his fruit diet formed the basis of his successes. And as fruit is rich in tyrosine, that might not be such a weird statement.”

Colzato tested 32 subjects on two occasions, both times giving them orange juice. In the first visit the orange juice contained 2 grams of tyrosine, while a placebo was added during the second visit. The subjects were then required to solve various puzzles requiring two different forms of creative problem solving: divergent and convergent thinking.

Divergent thinking, which allows many new ideas to be generated, is measured using the Alternate Uses Task (AUT) method that requires subjects to think up as many uses as possible for a particular object, such as a pen.

Convergent thinking, on the other hand, is a process whereby one possible solution for a particular problem is generated. This is measured using the Remote Associates Task (RAT), where three unrelated words are presented to the participants, words such as ‘time’, ‘hair’ and ‘stretch’. The candidates are then asked to identify the common link: in this case, ‘long’, they said.

The team reported that the participants performed better in convergent thinking when taking tyrosine, compared to the placebo.

“As there are reasons to assume that convergent thinking is more control-hungry than divergent thinking is, we expected performance in the convergent-thinking task to be more affected,” noted Colzato and her colleagues.

“Consistent with this expectation, tyrosine supplementation had an impact on RAT performance while we found no evidence for any impact of tyrosine on the AUT, which is the first demonstration that performance in tasks tapping human creativity can be enhanced by dopamine-related food supplements.”

“The food we eat may thus act as a cognitive enhancer that modulates the way we deal with the physical world, but at least with how deeply we can think. In particular, the supplementation of tyrosine, or tyrosine -containing diets, may promote convergent thinking in inexpensive, efficient, and healthy ways, thus supporting the creative process that Steve Jobs was such a superior exponent of,” the team concluded.

Source: Lorenza S. Colzato, Annelies M. de Haan, Bernhard Hommel. Food for creativity: tyrosine promotes deep thinking. Psychological Research, 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s00426-014-0610-4.

Journal Link: http://bit.ly/1vSBm4L

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