Mark Beeman Photo
Segal Seminar Series

Mark Beeman

January 18, 2011, 4:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center
ITW (1.350)
2133 Sheridan Rd. Evanston , IL 60208

Insight in the Brain — the Cognitive and Neural Bases of Eureka! Moments


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.


Mark Beeman is an Associate Professor at Northwestern University's Department of Psychology & Institute for Neuroscience. His research has been featured in the New York Times ("Tracing the Spark of Creative Problem-Solving" by Benedict Carey) and New Yorker . ("The Eureka Hunt: Where in our brains do insights come from?" by Jonah Lehrer)

This event is co-sponsored by the Segal Design Institute and The McCormick School's Dean Seminar Series.