The origins of insight in resting-state brain activity

John Kounios*, Jessica I. Fleck, Deborah L. Green, Lisa Payne, Jennifer L. Stevenson, Edward M. Bowden, Mark Jung-Beeman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

259 Scopus citations


People can solve problems in more than one way. Two general strategies involve (A) methodical, conscious, search of problem-state transformations, and (B) sudden insight, with abrupt emergence of the solution into consciousness. This study elucidated the influence of initial resting brain-state on subjects' subsequent strategy choices. High-density electroencephalograms (EEGs) were recorded from subjects at rest who were subsequently directed to solve a series of anagrams. Subjects were divided into two groups based on the proportion of anagram solutions derived with self-reported insight versus search. Reaction time and accuracy results were consistent with different cognitive problem-solving strategies used for solving anagrams with versus without insight. Spectral analyses yielded group differences in resting-state EEG supporting hypotheses concerning insight-related attentional diffusion and right-lateralized hemispheric asymmetry. These results reveal a relationship between resting-state brain activity and problem-solving strategy, and, more generally, a dependence of event-related neural computations on the preceding resting state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-291
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008


  • Attention
  • Creativity
  • Hemispheric asymmetry
  • Insight
  • Problem solving
  • Resting state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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