Have you ever noticed that in many of those old photographs of movie stars like Marilyn Monroe or Clark Gable, they always seemed to be smoking or holding a cigarette in their hand? There may be a scientific explanation as to why some people are more attracted and addicted to smoking than others. According to recent research out of The Netherlands, nicotine may be creativity booster for the more artistically-minded.
The co-authors of the study, Ole Jensen and Mathilde Bonnefond and Ole Jensen from the Radboud University in Nijmegen, conclude that nicotine consumption helps increase the alpha waves produced by the brain. These alpha waves help the human mind to better anticipate and ignore possible outside distractions, which then allows for improved, more precise concentration on the task at hand. Artists might call this state-of-mind, “being in the zone.”
Overview of the Jensen- Bonnefond nicotine study
The Dutch researchers began by selecting a group of eighteen participants whose brain activities were monitored during a series of very elaborate testing procedures. A non-invasive scientific technique called magneto-encephalography (MEG) measured and recorded their associated changes in alpha brain waves.
- At the beginning of the study, each volunteer/nicotine user was asked to memorize a series of four letters.
- Then, very quickly, one of two categories of “distractors” would appear on-screen.
- A “weak distractor” might be a symbol of some sort.
- A “strong detractor” would come in the form of another letter similar to the original four.
- The participants were instructed by the researchers to ignore any and all distractors while identifying a fifth letter that would flash on-screen immediately after the distractor.
- All results were compared to a control group of volunteers not ingesting nicotine.
What the team discovered is that the participants using nicotine experienced considerably higher levels of alpha brain wave activity. Not only were their scores much higher than the non-nicotine group, but they seemed to be much better able at mentally blocking out the many distractors. Their alpha brain waves actually spiked to their highest levels when the strong distractors appeared on-screen.
To put this another way, the greater the distraction, the better their abilities to ignore them. For more research conducted by Jensen and Bonnefond, refer to the study entitledAlpha waves close your mind for distraction, but not continuously, research suggests published on Science News.