Your wandering mind is an ‘attribute’, not a bug


Researchers have come up with a way to track the flow of our internal thought processes and indicate whether our brains are focused, fixed, or wandering.

Using an electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure brain activity when people perform mundane meditation tasks, researchers identify brain signals that reveal when the mind is not focused on the task at hand or aimlessly Wandering, especially after focusing on an assignment.

Specifically, increased alpha brain waves were detected in the prefrontal cortex of more than two dozen study participants when their thoughts jumped from one subject to another, providing an electrophysiological signature for unconstitutional, innate thought . Alpha waves are slow brain rhythms that have a frequency of 9 to 14 cycles per second.

Meanwhile, a weak brain signal known as P3 was seen in the parietal cortex, offering a neural marker for forward when people are not paying attention to the task at hand.

“For the first time, we have neurophysiological evidence that distinguishes different patterns of internal thought, allowing us to understand the varieties of thought central to human cognition and to make comparisons between healthy and disorganized thinking,” Robert Knight, Says a professor of psychology and neuroscience. At the University of California, Berkeley, and senior author of the new study, which will appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

The findings suggest that tuning our external environment and allowing our internal thoughts to move freely and constructively is an essential function of the brain and can promote relaxation and exploration.

In addition, how EEG markers flow our thoughts when our brains are relaxed can help researchers and practitioners detect some patterns of thinking before patients know where their brains are wandering .

“It can help detect and diagnose thought patterns associated with a spectrum of psychotherapy and attention disorders,” says Julia Kam, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Calgary. She began studies at Knight’s Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at UC Berkeley as a postdoctoral researcher.

“If you focus on your goals all the time, you can miss important information. And so, having an independent thought process that randomly generates memories and imaginative experiences can lead you to new ideas and insights, ”says Koothor Zachary Irving, an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Virginia Was who discovered psychological and philosophical underpinnings as a postdoctoral scholar at UC Berkeley. The Irving philosophical theory of mind-wandering shaped the methodology of study.

Coauthor Allison Gopnik, a developmental psychologist and scholar of philosophy, says, “The minds of children and young children continue to wander and so we wonder what actions may be taking.” “Our paper suggests that mind wandering is a positive feature of cognition in the form of quirky and explains something we all experience.”

To prepare for the study, 39 adults were taught the difference between four different categories of thinking: work-related, moving freely, consciously and automatically constrained.

Next, while wearing electrodes on their heads that measured their brain activity, they sat on a computer screen and tapped the left or right arrow keys to match the left and right arrows that appear in random sequences on the screen. Were.

When they completed a sequence, they were asked to rate it on a scale of one to seven – whether their thoughts during the task were related to the task, moving freely, intentionally constrained, or automatically Are constrained.

An example of unrelated and freely moving ideas for work would be if a student, instead of studying for an upcoming exam, found himself thinking about whether he had achieved a good grade on an assignment, So realized that he hadn’t prepared dinner yet, and then wondered if he should exercise more, and reminiscing about his last vacation, Kama said.

The responses to questions about thought processes were then divided into four groups and matched against recorded brain activity.

When study participants stated ideas that moved independently of the subject, they increased alpha wave activity in the frontal cortex of the brain, a pattern associated with the generation of creative thoughts. Researchers also found evidence for reduced P3 brain signals during off-task thoughts.

“The ability to detect our thought patterns through brain activity is an important step towards generating potential strategies to regularize our thoughts over time, a strategy useful for healthy and disorganized brains,” It is called work.

Additional coauthors are from UC Berkeley and the University of Hampshire.

Source: UC Berkeley

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