Friday, May 15, 2009

Brain does complex problem-solving while daydreaming

Perhaps Wally from Scott Adams' Dilbert is on to more than he realizes...

From ScienceDaily...

Brain's Problem-solving Function At Work When We Daydream

ScienceDaily (May 12, 2009) — 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."

For the study, subjects were placed inside an fMRI scanner, where they performed the simple routine task of pushing a button when numbers appear on a screen. The researchers tracked subjects' attentiveness moment-to-moment through brain scans, subjective reports from subjects and by tracking their performance on the task.

The findings suggest that daydreaming – which can occupy as much as one 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...

I totally, totally agree with this assessment. If for no other reason than because I happen to believe that our minds are a wondrous creation and should be allowed to unfold and develop at their own pace just as much as we say that we encourage such a thing. There is power in play, so to speak. Look at a company like Google, which practically mandates leisure time while its employees are on the clock: not many firms that are as creative and applied as they are.

And I think the evidence speaks for itself about how this study relates to the more formative years of an individual. People like Albert Einstein didn't allow their minds to fit "the pattern". He let his mind roam and play as he saw fit, and from it came an understanding of the universe that shattered all previous paradigms.

So at the risk of being punny, what y'all think? :-)


Lee Shelton IV said...

I did A LOT of "problem-solving" when I was in school!