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The Lateral Inferior Prefrontal Cortex and Anterior Cingulate Cortex are Engaged at Different Stages in the Solution of Insight Problems
Two studies used puzzles that required participants to find a word that satisfied a set of constraints. The first study used a remote-association task, where participants had to find a word that would form compound words with 3 other words. The second study required participants to complete a word fragment with an associate of another word. Both studies produced distinct patterns of activity in the lateral inferior prefrontal cortex (LIPFC) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Activation in the LIPFC rose only as long as the participants were trying to retrieve the solution and dropped off as soon as the solution was obtained. However, activation in the ACC increased upon the retrieval of a solution, reflecting the need to process that solution. The data of the second experiment are fit by an information-processing model that interprets the activity in the LIPFC as reflecting retrieval operations and the activity in the ACC as reflecting subgoal setting.