Daydreaming makes the brain sharperMost of the time people say that daydreaming is the pastime of idle brains and lazy people. A new study published by a research team of University of British Columbia (UBC) says that daydreaming actually helps the brain tackle life’s more complex problems.
Kalina Christoff, psychologist and co-author of the study says though mind wandering is typically associated with negative things like laziness or inattentiveness, this study shows our brains are very active when we daydream – much more active than when we focus on routine tasks.
Kalina further adds that when we daydream, we may not be achieving our immediate goal, say, reading a book or paying attention in class, but our mind may be taking that time to address more important questions in our life, such as advancing our career or personal relationships.
The quantity and quality of brain activity suggests that people struggling to solve complicated problems might be better off switching to a simpler task and letting their mind wander.
For the study, subjects were placed inside an MRI scanner, where they performed the simple routine task of pushing a button when numbers appear on a screen. Researchers tracked subjects’ attentiveness moment-to-moment through brain scans, subjective reports from participants and by tracking their performance.
The study findings suggest that daydreaming (which can occupy as much as a third of our waking lives) is an important cognitive state where we may unconsciously turn our attention from immediate tasks to sort through important problems in our lives.
Until now, the brain’s “default network” was the only part of the brain thought to be active when our minds wander, but, the study finds that the brain’s “executive network” associated with high-level, complex problem-solving, also becomes activated when we daydream.
These research findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.