Saturday, October 6, 2012

Mark Beeman: Neural Activity in Insight

Animation of the last half second (from -0.5 to -0.2) of high-frequency electrical activity at the scalp prior to the button press indicating subjects had solved a problem with insight.

In two experiments, we observed objective neural correlates of insight: fMRI 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, demonstrating this area is not involved solely in an emotional response to the solution.

In addition, EEG revealed a sudden burst of high-frequency (gamma-band) neural activity in the same area beginning about a third of a second prior to insight solutions.

This right anterior temporal area helps make 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.

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