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. 2016 Sep;233(18):3395-403.
doi: 10.1007/s00213-016-4377-8. Epub 2016 Jul 19.

Ayahuasca Enhances Creative Divergent Thinking While Decreasing Conventional Convergent Thinking

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Free PMC article

Ayahuasca Enhances Creative Divergent Thinking While Decreasing Conventional Convergent Thinking

K P C Kuypers et al. Psychopharmacology (Berl). .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Introduction: Ayahuasca is a South American psychotropic plant tea traditionally used in Amazonian shamanism. The tea contains the psychedelic 5-HT2A receptor agonist N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), plus β-carboline alkaloids with monoamine oxidase-inhibiting properties. Increasing evidence from anecdotal reports and open-label studies indicates that ayahuasca may have therapeutic effects in treatment of substance use disorders and depression. A recent study on the psychological effects of ayahuasca found that the tea reduces judgmental processing and inner reactivity, classic goals of mindfulness psychotherapy. Another psychological facet that could potentially be targeted by ayahuasca is creative divergent thinking. This mode of thinking can enhance and strengthen psychological flexibility by allowing individuals to generate new and effective cognitive, emotional, and behavioral strategies. The present study aimed to assess the potential effects of ayahuasca on creative thinking.

Methods: We visited two spiritual ayahuasca workshops and invited participants to conduct creativity tests before and during the acute effects of ayahuasca. In total, 26 participants consented. Creativity tests included the "pattern/line meanings test" (PLMT) and the "picture concept test" (PCT), both assessing divergent thinking and the latter also assessing convergent thinking.

Results: While no significant effects were found for the PLMT, ayahuasca intake significantly modified divergent and convergent thinking as measured by the PCT. While convergent thinking decreased after intake, divergent thinking increased.

Conclusions: The present data indicate that ayahuasca enhances creative divergent thinking. They suggest that ayahuasca increases psychological flexibility, which may facilitate psychotherapeutic interventions and support clinical trial initiatives.

Keywords: Ayahuasca; Conventional convergent thinking; Creativity; Divergent creative thinking; Field study.

Figures

Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Mean (±SE) of visual analog scale scores on 28 items during the ayahuasca experience
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
Convergent thinking (left side) and divergent thinking (right side) as measured with the PCT, before and after ayahuasca ingestion. The white bar represents the mean (±SE) of group 1, they gray bar of group 2, and the dark bar the mean of the two groups together. Convergent thinking deteriorated after ayahuasca ingestion while divergent thinking improved as indicated by the asterisk (*)

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