Daydreaming is brain’s default setting, study finds

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Daydreaming seems to be the default setting of the human mind and certain brain regions are devoted to it, U.S. researchers reported Friday.

When people are given a specific task to do, they focus on that task but then other brain regions get busy during down time, the researchers report in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.

“There is this network of regions that always seems to be active when you don’t give people something to do,” psychologist Malia Mason of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital said in a telephone interview.

When Mason asked people what was happening during this down time, the answer was clear.

“It’s daydreaming,” she said. “But I find that the vast majority of time, people aren’t having fanciful thoughts. People are thinking about what they have to do later today.”

Her team has chosen to call it stimulus-independent thought or mind wandering.

Neurologists and psychologists have debated what goes on when people are not specifically thinking about or doing something, and there had been general agreement that the mind does not simply go blank.

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