The brain may be a mushy organ, but it is capable of great things even without our consciousness being aware of them. A new research indicates that our daydreaming episodes are not a waste of time after all. The part of the brain that induces dreams while eyes are wide open can also activate the autopilot to perform dull, repetitive, familiar tasks.
The Experiment Monitored Brain Activity that Noticed the Transition from Vigilance to Daydreaming
Scientists found that default mode network or DMN is active for the whole time we are either dreaming or thinking about the past or future. A team of researchers at Cambridge University discovered that these brain areas are also responsible for switching our awareness to autopilot whenever we start tasks we are highly familiar with. These can be eating, driving, walking or any other repetitive, routine activity.
The latest study included 28 volunteers in an experiment. Their job was to match one card with one of the four scientists gave them. The key was to find common ground for two of them to match. Such similarities could have been same color, shape or number. During the entire time of the experiment, participants were hooked on scanners to monitor their brain activity.
At first, participants were getting familiar with the rules of the game. At this initial stage, their dorsal attention network was active. This part of the brain is associated with recording data that needs the person’s full attention.
However, the more people got accustomed to the rules, the more they dived into the default mode network. Those who were best at this task were those who had both DMN and hippocampus highly active. The latter is responsible for the part of the brain that tackles memories.
Daydreaming Episodes Save People Time and Energy
Lead author Deniz Vatansever claims that DMN helps people to save time and energy. Thanks to it, people can skip the reasoning and jump directly to predicting what it is going to happen next.
“It is essentially like an autopilot that helps us make fast decisions when we know what the rules of the environment are.”
Daydreaming episodes help us perform tasks without investing too much energy and time into it. The authors hope that their research is going to improve some people’s quality of life. For instance, those with depression, addiction, and obsessive-compulsive disorder need to detach themselves from the repetitive, destructive behavior.
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