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Uncategorized, week 4

Summary & Response to “The Eureka Hunt”

The article, “The Eureka Hunt,” introduces us with the story of a firefighter,Wag Dodge and his survival during an out-of-control fire in the Mann Gulch, in Montana. The fire was spreading faster and heading toward the direction of the firefighters. Dodge, in a moment of insight, had an escape plan; he stopped running, igniting the ground in front of him with a match, drenched his hanker-chef with water, and laid down on the “smoldering embers,” as the fire past him. His quick decision is a mere example which psychologist and neuroscientists use to determine “the insight experience.” Mark Jung-Beeman, a cognitive neuroscientist at Northwestern University, has spent fifteen years trying to figure out what happens inside the brain when people have an insight. He became interested in insight by researching the right hemisphere of the brain. In doing so, he conducted experimental word puzzles to see if it could be solved by insight or by analysis. He teamed up with John Kounios, a neuroscientist at Drexel University, who both share the same interest in insight. With both their ideas, they combined EEG and fMRI testings to scan people’s brain while they solved the puzzles to see if it can “construct a precise map, both in time and space, of the insight process.” The resulting studies, published in 2004 and 2006, found that people who solved puzzles with insight were using a portion of the cortical areas. According to Jung-Beeman and Kounios, a small fold of tissue on the surface of the right hemisphere, the anterior superior temporal gyrus (aSTG) becomes active first before insight occurs. Once the brain is focused on the problem, the cortex needs to relax, in order for the right hemisphere to provide insight. But as Jung-Beeman and Kounios concluded, by trying to force insight can actually prevent insight; the brain must focus on the task but at the same time it has to be accidental. Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at M.I.T., spent years studying the prefrontal cortex. Through monkey testing, he was “able to show that the prefrontal cortex wasn’t simply an aggregator of information,” but rather it was more “like a conductor, waving its baton and directing the players.” In 2001, Miller and Jonathon Cohen, a neuroscientist at Princeton, published a paper discussing their theory of how the prefrontal cortex controls the rest of the brain and is responsible for the creation of insight.

 This article was similar to the Thernstrom article of “My Pain, My Brain.” Both articles were curious of a specific portion of the brain. Thernstrom wanted to know how pain worked and what part of the brain controlled it. Jonah Lehrer’s article expresses the curiosity of several psychologist and neurologist on how insight worked and what part of the brain was responsible for it. Both authors wanted to figure out something that is almost impossible to figure out without technological machines. With today’s technologies and machines, we are able to figure out things scientist and researches could not many years ago. Both articles started with anecdotes that inspired to what their article was going to be. Both authors improve their credibility by participating in the experiments; Thernstrom participated in the flame test and Lehrer took part in solving puzzles. They also added outside sources to enhance their credibility which allows readers to trust the article. Overall, all articles we have read so far are interesting, inspiring, and informative. I enjoyed reading them all. 

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