[Dr. Carola Salvi, Ph.D]

My research focuses on the neural mechanisms underlying insight problem solving (i.e., Aha! Moments) and creativity: how an idea is born, emerges, and develops in our mind.

Here a snapshot of my current projects:


This project focuses on understanding how the vision-system is involved in insight problem solving an creativity. People often report having their best creative ideas while they are shutting their eyes, looking on a white wall or out the window. What are the attentive correlates, and the corresponding biomarkers of this modulation?

"AHA IS RIGHT!" Should we trust our insights? 

Aha! moments are satisfying partially because they feel so right; all the pieces of a puzzle seem to fall into place with little conscious effort. However can we trust such sudden solutions? Our 2016 study pioneered the field of insight problem solving demonstrating that the feeling of certainty that accompanies insight corresponds to an increased accuracy in people's responses.

Insight in ITALY

Since May 2013 I have been involved in a project to create and validate the Italian version of two pools of problems: CRA, RAT, anagrams and Rebus Problems. 


Recently my work has turned towards investigating the role played by the dopamine system  in problem solving and how that affects risk and reward. Specifically, I am researching what happens after people have a creative idea or solve a problem, and what is the role played by the dopamine system in this scenario.

Are we more willing to take risks and make investments after having solved a problem with an Aha! moment, or analytically? Which idea / solution types are more likely to bring about action and follow- through?

And of course, the big question on so many minds:

how can we enhance problem solving and creativity?

Role of right anterior temporal lobe in insight problem solving:

Previous research conducted in our lab identified a distinctive brain network for insight problem solving. Within this network, the right Anterior Temporal Lobe (rATL), putatively involved in semantic integration, is preferentially activated when participants experience a so-called A-ha! moment. In my current studies i am investigating the role of rATL in semantic integration and the possible effects of tDCS on it.

I'm currently working on these projects in collaboration with Prof. M. Beeman of Northwestern University (lab Page) and Prof. Jordan Grafman Shirley Ryan Abilitylab of Chicago and Edward Bowden University of Wisconsin-Parkside.