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The “Aha!” Moment: How To Solve Problems

Ever had an "aha!" moment and wondered how you arrived there? Learn about what happens in the brain when the "aha!" moment occurs.

A statue of a thinking man.

Photo: Resio (Flickr)

There are two different methods of solving problems: methodical and "aha" moments.

Ever had an “aha!” moment, where something becomes incredibly clear?

Well, you can thank your right anterior superior temporal gyrus. The anterior superior temporal gyrus is one of the important parts of your brain’s right temporal lobe that’s involved when you have a flash of intuition.

Methods Of Problem Solving

There are at least two different methods of problem solving. There’s the methodical, think-it-through kind, which involves brain regions associated with reason and logic. Then there are those times when you just can’t solve a problem, and you sort of give up and start thinking about something else.

Meanwhile, your brain can keep working on the problem and integrate information in a new way, behind the scenes, so to speak. Then, suddenly, a solution seems to come out of nowhere and you have one of those “aha!” moments when you were least expecting it.

Mark Jung-Beekman, a psychologist at Northwestern University, figured this out a few years ago. Studies showed that when we solve problems in a drawn-out way, the anterior superior temporal gyrus is quiet. However, just before an “aha!” moment it lights up like a pinball machine.

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