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Title: Neurocognition of New Ideas During Engineering Design

The research presented in this paper investigated the changes that occur in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) when new ideas are introduced during engineering design. Undergraduate and graduate engineering students (n = 25) were outfitted with a functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) headband. Students were asked to design a personal entertainment system while thinking aloud. New ideas were timestamped with the fNIRS data across 48 channels grouped into eight regions within the PFC. The data were preprocessed using temporal derivative distribution repair motion correction, finite impulse response bandpass filter, and the modified beer-lambert law to convert optical density into hemoglobin concentration. Baseline neurocognitive activation and physiological noise were removed. The study found a significant decrease in oxygenated hemoglobin in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and a subregion of the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex when new ideas were introduced during design. This finding begins to provide a neurocognitive signature of what a new idea looks like as it arises in the brain. This could be used to develop tools and techniques to inhibit this brain region or use this insight to predict when designers will experience a new idea based on their neural activation.

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Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Publisher / Repository:
American Society of Mechanical Engineers
Date Published:
Journal Name:
ASME 2023 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
Medium: X
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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