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Imaging Study Probes Brain Activity During 'Aha' Moments

Imaging Study Probes Brain Activity During ‘Aha’ Moments

Emerging research published in the journal Current Biology shows how the brain processes new insights.

Scientists from Radboud University in the Netherlands report that they have visualized for the first time how the brain recombines memories of past events when these are complemented by new information.

We’ve all had that ‘Aha!’ moment when pieces of a puzzling problem seem to fall into place as we gain insight into a previously obscured solution. But what happens in our brains when we think ‘Aha!’?

That was the question that Drs. Branka Milivojevic, Alejandro Vicente-Grabovetsky, and Christian Döller, researchers from the Donders Institute at Radboud University, sought to answer.

Branka and her colleagues used “The Sims 3″ life-simulation game to make animated videos of life-like events which they showed to participants whose brain activity was monitored using an MRI scanner.

They found that after people realized how some events fit together into a story, the memories of those events were joined together — just like pieces of a puzzle — to form a new memory of the entire story.

This effect could be seen in the hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex, brain regions involved in memory for personal, autobiographical events.

Investigators report that this is the first time scientists have been able to visualize how the brain flexibly recombines memories of past events when new information comes to light.

Experts believe this research has important implications for knowledge acquisition in educational settings. It suggest that teachers can aid learning, not only by explicitly providing the context for new material as they already do, but also by pointing out links within previously learned material.

This linking of memories elicits the reorganization of neural representations of knowledge and the accompanying formation of an integrated “big picture.”

Source: Radboud University

Imaging Study Probes Brain Activity During ‘Aha’ Moments

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Imaging Study Probes Brain Activity During ‘Aha’ Moments. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 6 Apr 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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