Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Eurek-ahh!

Flashes of inspiration activate the brain's reward centre in some

18 May 2020

Eurek-ahh!

Finally cracking a mystery, finding your way out of an escape room, thinking of the good pun, all flashes of insight – A-ha! moments – that feel rewarding. For some, that reward comes not just from reflecting on an achievement, but straight away from the brain. Participants in a recent study solved puzzles while wearing this electroencephalography (EEG) cap, its electrodes loaded with a gel that will help to measure brain activity. The investigators watched as tell-tale patterns of brain activity matched flashes of insight or ‘Eureka! moments’. In some people, though, this was immediately followed by a second burst of activity in the brain’s reward system – the same brain area that fires up in response to pleasure or addictive substances. This may help to explain why some people are drawn to opportunities for Eureka! moments – and why discovery and creativity are such prominent human traits.

Written by John Ankers

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