TDCS to the right anterior temporal lobe facilitates insight problem-solving

Carola Salvi*, Mark Beeman, Marom Bikson, Richard McKinley, Jordan Grafman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Problem-solving is essential for advances in cultural, social, and scientific knowledge. It is also one of the most challenging cognitive processes to facilitate. Some problem-solving is deliberate, but frequently people solve problems with a sudden insight, also known as a Eureka or “Aha!” moment. The advantage of solving problems via insight is that these solutions are more accurate, relying on a unique pattern of neural activity, compared to deliberative strategies. The right Anterior Temporal Lobe (rATL), putatively involved in semantic integration, is distinctively activated when people experience an insight. The rATL may contribute to the recognition of distant semantic relations that support insight solutions, although fMRI and EEG evidence for its involvement is, by nature, correlational. In this study, we investigate if focal sub-threshold neuromodulation to the rATL facilitates insight problem-solving. In three different groups, using a within- and between-subjects design, we tested the causal role of this brain region in problem-solving, by applying High Definition Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation to the rATL (active and sham condition) or the left frontopolar region while participants attempted to solve Compound Remote Associates problems before, during and after stimulation. Participants solved a higher percentage of problems, overall, and specifically by insight when they received rATL stimulation, compared to pre-stimulation, and compared to sham and left frontopolar stimulation. These results confirm the crucial role played by the rATL in insight problem-solving.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number946
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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