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Staring into space during a meeting is often interpreted as a sign of boredom. But an American study indicates that getting lost in thought stimulates the creation of new neural networks in our brain. This can allow us to absorb information better.
Authors this searchA study published in the journal Nature came to this conclusion after conducting an experiment involving mice. They tracked and analyzed the rodents’ brain activity as they repeatedly looked at two checkerboard-shaped images. They were broadcast to a screen that turned gray for a minute between each image.
The researchers found that the mice’s neurons released a specific electrical signal when they looked at both images. These signals were specific enough for scientists to be able to distinguish between the two images. This allowed them to discover that when the rodents were staring at the gray screen, their neural activity was similar, but not identical, to the activity recorded when they looked at one of the two images. In other words, they seem to be dreaming of said visual vision.
These daydreams occurred only when the mice were relaxed, and more so at the beginning of the day than in the evening, when the rodents viewed the images dozens of times. The academics noted that moments of mental escape seemed to play an important role in the mice memorizing both images. “When you see two different images multiple times, it becomes important to distinguish between them. Our observations suggest that daydreaming may guide this process by moving the neural patterns associated with the two images away from each other.“Nghia Nguyen, a co-author of the study, explained to… Harvard Gazette.
Interestingly, the mice were better able to distinguish between the two images of a chessboard when they let their minds wander, which led Mr. Nguyen and his colleagues to believe that daydreaming has an effect on brain plasticity. However, more scientific work is necessary to definitively prove the existence of this causal relationship.
Regardless, researchers are convinced that it is necessary to take mental breaks from time to time. “We believe that if you never allow yourself time to rest while awake, you won’t have many opportunities to daydream, which can be important for brain plasticity.That’s enough to make you feel less guilty if you’re lost in thought during a meeting, said Marc Anderman.
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