May 11, 2009
Daydreaming Exercises Your Brain's Executive Network

If someone complains to you about your daydreaming just tell them you are thinking harder than they are.

A new University of British Columbia study finds that our brains are much more active when we daydream than previously thought.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds that activity in numerous brain regions increases when our minds wander. It also finds that brain areas associated with complex problem-solving previously thought to go dormant when we daydream are in fact highly active during these episodes.

"Mind wandering is typically associated with negative things like laziness or inattentiveness," says lead author, Prof. Kalina Christoff, UBC Dept. of Psychology. "But this study shows our brains are very active when we daydream much more active than when we focus on routine tasks."

People who just do routine tasks are a bunch of mental slackers. Is it the daydreamers who are operating their "executive network". Tell anyone who complains about your daydreaming that you are going your lateral medial prefrontal cortex and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex a heavy work-out.

Until now, the brain's "default network" which is linked to easy, routine mental activity and includes the medial prefrontal cortex (PFC), the posterior cingulate cortex and the temporoparietal junction was the only part of the brain thought to be active when our minds wander.

However, the study finds that the brain's "executive network" associated with high-level, complex problem-solving and including the lateral PFC and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex also becomes activated when we daydream.

I feel so vindicated. Those grade school teachers who complained about my daydreaming were trying to hold back my intellectual development and turn me into a mental slacker. But I persevered against their resistance and did mental gymnastics in spite of them.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 May 11 10:02 PM  Brain Performance

Vincent said at May 11, 2009 10:49 PM:

More evidence that society doesn't want us to think, just to do as we're told.

Shannon Love said at May 14, 2009 11:03 AM:

I daydream rather a lot because I spent a big chunk of my childhood playing alone on a farm out in the country. In my adult life, I've learned that while daydreaming helps you get ideas it can interfere with your ability to implement those ideas. Daydreams can turn into seductive distractions when you have to bear down and do the dull nuts and bolts work of turning a creative insight to a real solution.

ADD said at May 14, 2009 12:12 PM:

Excessive daydreaming can be common among people with ADD Inattentive. I'm one of those and daydreaming is like a drug addiction. It is impossible to get anything done as Shannon says.

kyle said at May 14, 2009 1:08 PM:

I was written off as unteachable in 3rd grade, set in the back of the class and ignored, because repetitive blah blah blah talking would snap me into a theta trance. By the time college rolled around, i was seeing flowers in calculus equations and new physics was too easy to visualize that it seemed like cheating. But i still feel sorry for all the margin doodlers that were cut down constantly by the non-creative industrial age teachers, sometimes even through 12th grade english and social studies class. I'd call my little hypnogagiac friend a seductive distraction, but i built my life around compensating for it. Losing it would mean i'd have to fake being a music producer and maybe going into accounting or law. But it makes some of my buddhist and yogi friends jealous. Western dogmas clashing with commonplace Eastern states of being. Yawn, i feel a 20 minute nap coming on.

aaron said at May 14, 2009 2:51 PM:

I also read a recent post on freakonomic weblog on how people who spend 20% of their work time on the interenet for liezure actually still get 9% more work done than their dullard counterparts according to a study out of Melbourne.

If You're Reading This at Work

Charlie said at May 14, 2009 3:24 PM:

That explains it! I always try to daydream, but my mind keeps wandering.

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