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PLoS Biol. 2004 Apr;2(4):E97. Epub 2004 Apr 13.

Neural activity when people solve verbal problems with insight.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA. mjungbee@northwestern.edu

Abstract

People sometimes solve problems with a unique process called insight, accompanied by an "Aha!" experience. It has long been unclear whether different cognitive and neural processes lead to insight versus noninsight solutions, or if solutions differ only in subsequent subjective feeling. Recent behavioral studies indicate distinct patterns of performance and suggest differential hemispheric involvement for insight and noninsight solutions. Subjects solved verbal problems, and after each correct solution indicated whether they solved with or without insight. We observed two objective neural correlates of insight. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (Experiment 1) revealed increased activity in the right hemisphere anterior superior temporal gyrus for insight relative to noninsight solutions. The same region was active during initial solving efforts. Scalp electroencephalogram recordings (Experiment 2) revealed a sudden burst of high-frequency (gamma-band) neural activity in the same area beginning 0.3 s prior to insight solutions. This right anterior temporal area is associated with making connections across distantly related information during comprehension. Although all problem solving relies on a largely shared cortical network, the sudden flash of insight occurs when solvers engage distinct neural and cognitive processes that allow them to see connections that previously eluded them.

PMID:
15094802
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC387268
Free PMC Article

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