From Snoop Dogg to Dylan, Marley to Morrissette, many musicians throughout history has given credit to marijuana, for helping their creative process. This in part has led to public opinion changing on marijuana, and its spread among fans. However, how does it help them? In this article, we take a look at the science behind how marijuana affects the brains creativity.
Divergent thinking is the ability to think flexibly and come up with abstract solutions to problems. In the Netherlands, subjects were given either a low or high dose of THC free cannabis, then asked to list as many uses for two items as possible.
Subjects who had taken low doses of the THC free cannabis had similar results to the control group, who had not taken any dose, but subjects who had received large doses scored significantly lower than both the control group and the low dose group. Cannabis were causing their test subjects to be less creative, despite the subject’s beliefs they were more creative.
Another study tested edibles. Users who ate marijuana edibles were found to be less creative than the control group, who ate nothing. Strangely, subjects who consumed regular snacks, but believed they were ingesting marijuana, were found to be more creative than both the control group and the group that had ingested marijuana.
Hold on a Second
However, it is important to note that eating a marijuana edible has a different mechanism of action in your body. More so, before you begin feeling medical marijuana’s affect on your body, it has to pass through your liver. Reportedly Marijuana edibles have a more numbing affect than their smoked counterparts.
Furthermore, while the first test showed decreased creativity, it doesn’t take into account that marijuana currently an average of 11% THC. Smokable extracts can be upwards of 75% THC. But why is this important?
THC has a direct effect on the brain’s priming abilities which are vital to divergent thought and causes your brain to begin hyper-priming, a trait generally associated with a schizophrenic spectrum disorder. Hyper-priming is stressful on the brain and is part of what leads to the ‘burn out’ afterwards, but until that time – your divergent thinking ability is heightened. This means that you can make ‘better’ connections of abstract ideas, such as words, and music. Links that were not apparent before seem logical – even if the basis is only subjective.
Can You Hear It Now?
It has been theorised that marijuana may affect your hearing in similar ways to how it affects the olfactory bulb. Marijuana makes pleasant smells more enjoyable, and harsh odours more repugnant. As such, those under the influence of marijuana are able to create better scent, and taste, combinations.
If true, and marijuana affects the hearing centre similarly, that means When under the influence, musicians would be better able to pick out notes and create enjoyable and unique sound combinations- which they may never have reached before.
Another aspect of marijuana’s effects on the brain which may affect musicians positively is the dopamine release that THC causes. Dopamine lowers your inhibitions, which lets you more freely translate words, and musical notes, to paper. While musicians often don’t use every little thing that comes out of them when high, this process can build the foundation for a hit single or, as in Brian Wilson’s case, an entire album.
While marijuana may improve a musician’s creativity, it won’t teach you how to play an instrument. Marijuana is merely a tool used by some, already skilled, musicians, not their key to success.