Where Ideas Come From: The Cognitive and Brain Bases of Eureka! Moments
Mark Beeman, Neuroscience Northwestern University

Abstract:
How does the brain produce those sudden moments of creative insight? Most creativity occurs over extended periods of time, making it difficult to elucidate the critical cognitive and neural processes. But sometimes, while at an impasse about how to solve a problem - Eureka! - a sudden insight emerges. Such moments of sudden insight can signal and isolate some of the critical components of creative cognition. Although insight seems to occur suddenly, the Eureka! moment is the culmination of cognitive processes and internal states that facilitate the insight - from rapidly changing preparatory states to relatively stable individual differences in brain states that influence problem solving style. Furthermore, the processes and neural activity that lead to insight solutions are modulated by mood and attention. Based on these results, I present a framework of cognitive and neural mechanisms supporting insight and at least some aspects of creative cognition.

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