Summary: A new study reveals people who report more frequent daydreaming scored higher on tests of intelligence and creativity. MRI scans also reveals more efficient brain systems for frequent daydreamers.
Source: Georgia Institute of Technology.
A new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology suggests that daydreaming during meetings isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It might be a sign that you’re really smart and creative.
“People with efficient brains may have too much brain capacity to stop their minds from wandering,” said Eric Schumacher, the Georgia Tech associate psychology professor who co-authored the study.
Schumacher and his students and colleagues, including lead co-author Christine Godwin, measured the brain patterns of more than 100 people while they lay in an MRI machine. Participants were instructed to focus on a stationary fixation point for five minutes. The Georgia Tech team used the data to identify which parts of the brain worked in unison.
“The correlated brain regions gave us insight about which areas of the brain work together during an awake, resting state,” said Godwin, a Georgia Tech psychology Ph.D. candidate.
“Interestingly, research has suggested that these same brain patterns measured during these states are related to different cognitive abilities.”
Once they figured out how the brain works together at rest, the team compared the data with tests the participants that measured their intellectual and creative ability. Participants also filled out a questionnaire about how much their mind wandered in daily life.
Those who reported more frequent daydreaming scored higher on intellectual and creative ability and had more efficient brain systems measured in the MRI machine.
“People tend to think of mind wandering as something that is bad. You try to pay attention and you can’t,” said Schumacher. “Our data are consistent with the idea that this isn’t always true. Some people have more efficient brains.”
Schumacher says higher efficiency means more capacity to think, and the brain may mind wander when performing easy tasks.
How can you tell if your brain is efficient? One clue is that you can zone in and out of conversations or tasks when appropriate, then naturally tune back in without missing important points or steps.
“Our findings remind me of the absent-minded professor — someone who’s brilliant, but off in his or her own world, sometimes oblivious to their own surroundings,” said Schumacher. “Or school children who are too intellectually advanced for their classes. While it may take five minutes for their friends to learn something new, they figure it out in a minute, then check out and start daydreaming.”
Godwin and Schumacher think the findings open the door for follow-up research to further understand when mind wandering is harmful, and when it may actually be helpful.
“There are important individual differences to consider as well, such as a person’s motivation or intent to stay focused on a particular task,” said Godwin.
Funding: The research is based upon work supported by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (award number 2014-13121700006). Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
Source: Jason Maderer – Georgia Institute of Technology
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Abstract for “Functional connectivity within and between intrinsic brain networks correlates with trait mind wandering” by Godwin CA, Hunter MA, Bezdek MA, Lieberman G, Elkin-Frankston S, Romero VL, Witkiewitz K, Clark VP, and Schumacher EH in Neuropsychologia. Published online July 10 2017 doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.07.006
Functional connectivity within and between intrinsic brain networks correlates with trait mind wandering
Individual differences across a variety of cognitive processes are functionally associated with individual differences in intrinsic networks such as the default mode network (DMN). The extent to which these networks correlate or anticorrelate has been associated with performance in a variety of circumstances. Despite the established role of the DMN in mind wandering processes, little research has investigated how large-scale brain networks at rest relate to mind wandering tendencies outside the laboratory. Here we examine the extent to which the DMN, along with the dorsal attention network (DAN) and frontoparietal control network (FPCN) correlate with the tendency to mind wander in daily life. Participants completed the Mind Wandering Questionnaire and a 5-min resting state fMRI scan. In addition, participants completed measures of executive function, fluid intelligence, and creativity. We observed significant positive correlations between trait mind wandering and 1) increased DMN connectivity at rest and 2) increased connectivity between the DMN and FPCN at rest. Lastly, we found significant positive correlations between trait mind wandering and fluid intelligence (Ravens) and creativity (Remote Associates Task). We interpret these findings within the context of current theories of mind wandering and executive function and discuss the possibility that certain instances of mind wandering may not be inherently harmful. Due to the controversial nature of global signal regression (GSReg) in functional connectivity analyses, we performed our analyses with and without GSReg and contrast the results from each set of analyses.
“Functional connectivity within and between intrinsic brain networks correlates with trait mind wandering” by Godwin CA, Hunter MA, Bezdek MA, Lieberman G, Elkin-Frankston S, Romero VL, Witkiewitz K, Clark VP, and Schumacher EH in Neuropsychologia. Published online July 10 2017 doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.07.006