Anatomy of A Eureka! Moment

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Fri Dec 21 2001 - 10:24:33 MST

The thrlll of discovery is the purest, least understood event in science. Now,
studies of the brain are revealing the anatomy of a 'Eureka moment.'

Now I get it
By measuring changes in electrical activity in the brain, researchers believe
they have pinpointed the so-called "Eureka moment," the point in time a person
understands a concept. Subjects were shown a sentence, one word at a time, on
a computer screen. On its own, the sentence seems nonsensical, but becomes
clear when a cue word is presented.
Now, work by Soraci and other scientists indicates that the eureka moment can
not only be detected electrically, but may itself hold important secrets,
giving new insights into creativity, thinking and memory, and even suggesting
better ways to teach. One of the secrets may be the intriguing notion that
confusion is key to memory.
Solaci said educators should strive to design lessons that will give students
aha moments. A lesson on evolution, for example, might start with some of the
same clues Darwin saw - striking similarities between man and ape, finches
exquisitely attuned to their environments - before explaining his theory.
In the most recent research on aha moments, scientists have measured a
distinct pattern of brain activity that comes with the sudden insight,
according to Amanda DeFiore, the lead scientist on the experiment, which has
not been published. About 400 milliseconds after the key word is read,
revealing the meaning of the sentence, electrodes on the scalp pick up a
pulse, called an N400.
The next step, DeFiore said, would be to use more sophisticated brain-scanning
equipment to discern where in the brain, precisely, the aha pulse originates.
Eureka moments remain deeply mysterious, she said, but, with this information,
perhaps everything would start falling into place.

Full Text at:

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Useless hypotheses, etc.:
 consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment, malevolent AI,
non-sensory experience, SETI

We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces superstition.

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