Neuro Science  








Every human (at least almost every human) has curiosity by nature. And you would know what is curiosity. Even though it is not easy for you to explain in words on what is exactly curiosity. There would be some thing (at least some emotion) you feel in your mind when you become curious about anything. That's curiosity.

However, in this note I need to explain in words what is curiosity. Let me first borrow the definition of curiosity from a few other sources as follows. They define the word Curiosity as follows.

  • a strong desire to learn or know something. -CommonSenseMedia-
  • inquisitive interest in others' concerns - Merriam-Webster -
  • interest leading to inquiry - Merriam-Webster -
  • one that arouses interest especially for uncommon or exotic characteristics - Merriam-Webster -
  • a desire to know about something - Collins -
  • something that is unusual, interesting, and fairly rare - Collins -
  • an innate human characteristic that drives individuals to seek out new information, experiences, and perspectives - chatGPT -

Now you may see some pattern from the definitions listed above. The pattern that I have noticed is

  • Curiosity is a desire to learn or know about somethine
  • That 'something' is unusual, interisting'

So my personal definition of Curiosity is 'Curiosity is an emotional response to something new(novel)'. In my mind, I think 'Curiosity' is something more of emotional. In other words, something occuring inside of our mind even though it is not easy to clearly express in words.  Following quote from The Science of Curiosity  well matches my personal understanding / definition of 'Curiosity'.

    Perhaps it was a bolt of lightning that piqued the early human’s curiosity; perhaps it was a raging wildfire. But once upon a time, an early human channeled inspiration into pure ingenuity and figured out how to start a fire. The control of fire supplemented humankind’s first invention, the stone tool. Next came boats, and then spears; then language, glue, clothing, and even the flute.


    Each of these incredible inventions came to fruition in the mind of early humans many tens of thousands of years ago. Some sort of special spark drove humans to explore, discover, and later, to invent. That special spark lives within each of us, too. It makes us eager to learn things and to solve problems. Whenever you’re listening to music, reading a book, or watching TV, it’s there, helping your imagination soar. This special spark is curiosity, the desire to seek out new knowledge and learn how things work.




Curiosity in terms of neuroscience / psychology



From The psychology and neuroscience of curiosity

  • Curiosity is “the impulse towards better cognition,” meaning that it is the desire to understand what you know that you do not. He noted that, in children, it drives them towards objects of novel, sensational qualities—that which is “bright, vivid, startling”
  • Curiosity is a special form of information-seeking distinguished by the fact that it is internally motivated. By this view, curiosity is strictly an intrinsic drive, while information-seeking refers more generally to a drive that can be either intrinsic or extrinsic
  • Contexts in which agents seek information for immediately strategic reasons are not considered curiosity in the strict sense

From The Psychology of Curiosity : A Review and Reinterpretation

  • Curiosity was seen as an intrinscially motivated desire for information
  • Curiosity was viewed as a possion with the motivational intensity
  • Curiosity was seen as appetitive




Brain Regions related to Curiosity


I was wondering if there are any definite regions in the brain that are associated with curiosity. There have been many researches showing a specific regions associated with curiosity, but that specific region varies depending on the method to induce the curiosity for the subjects. I don't see any specific single region associated all of curious moments we may experience.


Human subjects read trivia questions and rated their feelings of curiosity while undergoing fMRI. Brain activity in the caudate nucleus and inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) was associated with self-reported curiosity. These structures are activated by anticipation of many types of rewards, so these results suggest that curiosity elicits an anticipation of a reward state. Puzzlingly, the nucleus accumbens, which is one of the most reliably activated structures for reward anticipation, was not activated. When the answer was revealed, activations generally were found in structures associated with learning and memory, such as parahippocampal gyrus and hippocampus. Again this is a bit puzzling, because classic structures that respond to receipt of reward were not particularly activated. In any case, the learning effect was particularly strong on trials on which subjects’ guesses were incorrect—the trials on which learning was greatest. - The psychology and neuroscience of curiosity -


Image Source : Neurolinguistics: Structure, Function, and Connectivity in the Bilingual Brain


Image Source : Limbic System / Slideshare



A human subject was presented with blurry photos with ambiguous contents that piqued their curiosity; curiosity activated the anterior cingulate cortex and anterior insula - regions sensitive to aversive conditions (but to many other things too); resolution of curiosity activated striatal reward circuits. they also found that resolution of curiosity activated learning structures and also drove learning. In this study, it is shown that the curiosity is a fundamentally aversive state (not pleasant). Specifically, curiosity is seen as a lack of something wanted (information) and thus unpleasant, and this unpleasantness motivates information, which will alleviate it.  - The psychology and neuroscience of curiosity -

Image Source : Nature Reviews / Neuroscience



Human subjects were shown interleaved photographs of neutral, unknown faces which acted as a probe for learning. When tested later, subjects recalled the faces shown in high curiosity trials better than faces shown on low curiosity trials. Thus, the curiosity state led to better learning, even for the things people weren’t curious about. Curiosity drove activity in both midbrain (implying the dopaminergic regions) and nucleus accumbens; memory was correlated with midbrain and hippocampal activity. These results suggest that, although curiosity reflects intrinsic motivation, it is mediated by the same mechanisms as extrinsically motivated rewards.  - The psychology and neuroscience of curiosity -



By increasing brain activity in a specific brain region (of mouse), the Zona Incerta, interaction with conspecifics and novel objects compared to familiar objects and food increased. When we inactivated the cells in this region, depth and duration of investigation decreased”. Moreover, the researchers found that specific neurons were more active during deep investigation compared to during shallow investigation. - Brain Mechanism of Curiosity Unraveled -


Image Source : The zona incerta in control of novelty seeking and investigation across species