Mind-wandering: mechanistic insights from lesion, tDCS, and iEEG

Affiliations.

  • 1 Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada; Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada. Electronic address: [email protected].
  • 2 Institute for Psychology, University of Trømso, Trømso, Norway.
  • 3 Department of Psychology, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA; Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA.
  • PMID: 35086725
  • PMCID: PMC9166901
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2021.12.005

Cognitive neuroscience has witnessed a surge of interest in investigating the neural correlates of the mind when it drifts away from an ongoing task and the external environment. To that end, functional neuroimaging research has consistently implicated the default mode network (DMN) and frontoparietal control network (FPCN) in mind-wandering. Yet, it remains unknown which subregions within these networks are necessary and how they facilitate mind-wandering. In this review, we synthesize evidence from lesion, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), and intracranial electroencephalogram (iEEG) studies demonstrating the causal relevance of brain regions, and providing insights into the neuronal mechanism underlying mind-wandering. We propose that the integration of complementary approaches is the optimal strategy to establish a comprehensive understanding of the neural basis of mind-wandering.

Keywords: default mode network; frontoparietal control network; intracranial EEG; lesion; mind-wandering; transcranial direct current stimulation.

Copyright © 2021 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Attention / physiology
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Electroencephalography
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation*

Grants and funding

  • P50 MH109429/MH/NIMH NIH HHS/United States
  • R01 NS021135/NS/NINDS NIH HHS/United States
  • R37 NS021135/NS/NINDS NIH HHS/United States
  • U19 NS107609/NS/NINDS NIH HHS/United States

InfiSearchGateway Logo

"); --> driver->getShortTitle() // this line of code is already exist in next line for title print--> Mind-wandering: mechanistic insights from lesion, tDCS, and iEEG

Access available subscribing institute.

  • Description

Similar Items

  • Improved multitasking following prefrontal tDCS by: Hannah L. Filmer Published: (2013)
  • For a minute there, I lost myself … dosage dependent increases in mind wandering via prefrontal tDCS by: Hannah L. Filmer Published: (2019)
  • tDCS reactivation of dormant adaptation circuits by: Francesco Panico Published: (2017)
  • Stimulating task unrelated thoughts: tDCS of prefrontal and parietal cortices leads to polarity specific increases in mind wandering by: Hannah L. Filmer Published: (2021)
  • Limits to tDCS effects in language: Failures to modulate word production in healthy participants with frontal or temporal tDCS by: Samuel J. Westwood Published: (2017)

U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

The .gov means it’s official. Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.

The site is secure. The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

  • Publications
  • Account settings

Preview improvements coming to the PMC website in October 2024. Learn More or Try it out now .

  • Advanced Search
  • Journal List
  • HHS Author Manuscripts

Logo of nihpa

Mind-wandering: mechanistic insights from lesion, tDCS, and iEEG

Julia w. y. kam.

1 Department of Psychology, University of Calgary

2 Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary

Matthias Mittner

3 Institute for Psychology, University of Trømso

Robert T. Knight

4 Department of Psychology, University of California Berkeley

5 Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California Berkeley

Cognitive neuroscience has witnessed increased interest in investigating the neural correlates of the mind when it drifts away from an ongoing task and the external environment. To that end, functional neuroimaging research has consistently implicated the default mode network and frontoparietal control network in mind-wandering. Yet, it remains unknown which subregions within these networks are necessary and how they facilitate mind-wandering. In this review, we synthesize evidence from lesion, transcranial direct current stimulation and intracranial EEG studies demonstrating the causal relevance of brain regions, and providing insights into the neuronal mechanism underlying mind-wandering. We propose that the integration of complementary approaches is the optimal strategy to establish a comprehensive understanding of the neural basis of mind-wandering.

Beyond neuroimaging correlates of mind-wandering

An exceptional feature of the human mind is its capacity to wander away from the here and now[ 1 ]. This ubiquitous experience predicts wide ranging functional outcomes in both the lab and in everyday life[ 2 ]. Regardless of how mind-wandering[ 3 – 7 ] is defined (see Glossary), its prevalence and impact has sparked a substantial increase in cognitive neuroscience research investigating the neural correlates of mind-wandering in the past 15 years[ 8 ]. Leveraging the superb spatial resolution of functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques, these studies revealed multiple brain structures involved in this pervasive cognitive phenomenon[ 9 – 14 ]. However, unanswered questions remain about the necessity of these brain regions and the neuronal processes underlying mind-wandering. By integrating evidence from lesion, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and intracranial EEG (iEEG) studies, we present a synthesis that establishes the causal relevance of brain regions, and provides insight into the neural mechanisms underlying mind-wandering.

Empirical studies investigating the neural basis of mind-wandering have primarily relied on functional MRI. They have identified a consistent set of brain regions involved in mind-wandering, providing valuable insights on where in the brain the action takes place. Given the correlational nature and limited temporal resolution of functional and structural MRI, other techniques are available to address the causality of brain regions in mind-wandering, the mechanistic relationship between these regions, and the temporal dynamics of mind-wandering. Therefore, the current review examines two important aspects of the neural basis of mind-wandering by highlighting studies involving the lesion, tDCS and intracranial EEG approaches. Box 1 describes the unique insights afforded by each of these approaches in more detail. In this review, we first address the causal relevance of brain regions in mind-wandering and then examine the neural mechanism underlying this ubiquitous experience. Given the increasingly recognized role of context, we also underline the importance of accounting for context in examining the neural basis of mind-wandering.

The value of lesion, tDCS and intracranial EEG approaches.

The lesion, transcranial direction current stimulation (tDCS), and intracranial EEG (iEEG) approaches have uniquely advanced our understanding of the neural basis of cognitive functions (see Figure I ).

For over a century, lesion studies documenting the impact of permanent damage to focal brain regions in humans have revealed important insights into their causal links to fundamental cognitive processes[ 88 ]. Changes in one cognitive function but not another in individuals with lesions compared to those with an intact brain provide compelling evidence that the damaged brain region is necessary for the disrupted cognitive function. The outcome of this permanent damage appears to be distinct from that of temporary changes elicited by brain stimulation, underscoring the unique information afforded by the lesion approach[ 23 ]. To that end, foundational and contemporary lesion studies have revealed subcomponent processes of high-level cognitive functions[ 24 , 89 , 90 ].

In contrast to the permanency of brain damage, tDCS temporarily modulates a brain region using a portable stimulator that delivers low intensity electrical currents through scalp electrodes. Importantly, changes in stimulation parameters can differentially impact the targeted cognitive function. This includes the stimulation montage (e.g. bipolar versus high-definition) which impacts the spatial precision of the stimulation[ 23 ]; polarity (e.g. anodal=excitation and cathodal=inhibition) which informs the functional role of brain regions[ 40 , 41 , 43 , 57 ]; and intensity (e.g. 1mA versus 2mA) which reveals dosage dependent effects[ 60 , 61 ]. Despite inconsistent findings in part due to methodological differences (see Box 3 ), the temporary effect of the stimulation enables the examination of causal relevance of brain regions in larger, more representative samples and is a potential avenue for improving cognitive functions.

Finally, recordings of iEEG are obtained directly from electrodes implanted in the brains of epilepsy patients during surgery for identifying the source of epileptic seizures. Neural activity recorded from non-epileptic sites[ 91 ] in patients resemble activity from healthy brains, emphasizing the utility of iEEG for basic research. This type of data offers millimeter anatomical precision and millisecond temporal precision useful for revealing neuronal activity unfolding over time during cognitive processes[ 92 , 93 ]. Moreover, iEEG data has a high signal-to-noise ratio allowing for single-trial analyses and provides access to high frequency activity which tracks neuronal firing rates and the BOLD signal[ 94 , 95 ]. Despite these advantages over scalp EEG, iEEG is inherently invasive and comes at the cost of low sample size and partial brain coverage. The advantages of iEEG enable us to understand not just where and when, but how, fundamental cognitive processes are implemented in the human brain[ 92 , 96 ].

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is nihms-1767360-f0003.jpg

A) Lesion studies have examined the default mode network (DMN), as exemplified in these MRI images. Adapted from [ 32 ]. B) tDCS studies have targeted the DMN and DLPFC in the fronto-parietal control network (FPCN). Simulation of left DLPFC stimulation using the two-electrode montage (left panels) shows that the impact spreads into medial PFC and beyond whereas the four-electrode high-definition montage (right panels) results in focalized electric field intensity restricted to the left DLPFC. Adapted from [ 60 ]. C) In studies using iEEG, grid, strip and stereotactic electrodes have been used to target regions in DMN and FPCN.

Neural regions and circuits necessary for mind-wandering

Functional MRI (fMRI) evidence has consistently implicated the interaction within and across two major large-scale networks in mind-wandering. One common finding converges on the default mode network (DMN)[ 10 – 12 , 15 ]. Parcellation of this network has revealed fine-grained differential relationships between its two subsystems and phenomenological experiences that are commonly reported during mind-wandering[ 9 , 16 ]. Another prominent network consistently linked to mind-wandering is the frontoparietal control network (FPCN). These networks are illustrated in Figure 1 . Based on its role in goal-directed processes[ 17 , 18 ], co-activation of the FPCN and the DMN are linked to the occurrence of mind-wandering and related internal processes[ 19 – 21 ]. Box 2 further elaborates on the differential roles of the DMN and FPCN in mind-wandering, as well as other cognitive processes, highlighting a nuanced context-dependent brain-behavior functional relationship. Although additional regions beyond these networks, including the motor cortex[ 22 ], are also recruited during mind-wandering, the current review focuses on the DMN and FPCN as they have been the most extensively examined. Over a decade of fMRI research laid the foundation for our understanding of neural networks involved in mind-wandering. We now focus on two complementary approaches that build on the knowledge obtained from fMRI by establishing the causal relevance of subregions in these networks: lesion and tDCS.

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is nihms-1767360-f0001.jpg

The effects of lesion on mind-wandering frequency and temporal focus of mind-wanderirng are indexed by star shapes. Darker grey indicates a lesion in that location was shown to increase mind-wandering frequency (primarily in the ventromedial PFC); the medium shade of grey indicates an absence of significant effect on mind-wandering frequency (in the hippocampus); the lightest grey indicates an increase in present-focused thoughts during MW (in the hippocampus). tDCS effects primarily focusing on mind-wandering frequency are indexed by hexagonal shapes: darker yellow indicates stimulation of that region was shown to increase mind-wandering (in the DLPFC), lighter yellow indicates a decrease in mind-wandering (in the DLPFC and right IPL), and the medium shade indicates an absence of significant effect (in the DLPFC). The size of the hexagon corresponds to the proportion of papers reporting that effect; however, note the sample size across studies is not reflected in this figure. Connectivity between DMN and FPCN subsystem A during mind-wandering as revealed by iEEG studies are shown in blue circles, which reflects involvement of the entire network in which the circle is located.

The roles of DMN and FPCN in mind-wandering.

Neuroimaging research has long converged on the integral role of the default mode network (DMN) in mind-wandering[ 9 – 12 ]. Based on differential relationships between the two subsystems of the DMN and thought processes that are commonly reported during mind-wandering[ 9 , 16 ], these subsystems presumably contribute to the different aspects of mind-wandering. While the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex subsystem is involved in mentalizing about social situations (e.g. as in theory of mind[ 97 ]), the medial temporal lobe subsystem is active during episodic memory recall and constructive mental simulation during memory tasks[ 16 ] and during mind-wandering[ 30 , 31 ]. Given the robust finding of DMN’s involvement in mind-wandering, a substantial amount of research has almost exclusively examined the DMN. Subsequent work has disputed this widely accepted portrayal of a one-to-one brain-behavior mapping, with a meta-analysis demonstrating that mind-wandering reliably recruits regions outside of the DMN including the fronto-parietal control network (FPCN)[ 8 ]. Moreover, accumulating evidence suggests that the DMN is not exclusively involved in mind-wandering and its related processes[ 98 ]; rather, this network is also recruited during tasks not traditionally associated with DMN[ 99 – 103 ], and linked to specific aspects of task-related thoughts[ 22 ]. These findings [ 14 , 22 , 74 , 102 ] contest the notion of DMN’s singular role as a task-negative network, and necessitate the consideration of context to more accurately depict this nuanced relationship between DMN and ongoing thoughts.

The FPCN has also been consistently linked to mind-wandering[ 8 ]. Primarily activated during executive control processes[ 17 , 104 ], this network appears to serve as a gateway to conscious ongoing experience and interacts with the DMN to regulate the occurrence of internally oriented thoughts[ 16 , 21 , 51 , 105 ] including episodic memory[ 19 ]. Similar to the DMN, subsequent work has revealed that this network is parcellated into two subsystems that are associated with distinct functional roles[ 51 ]. The FPCN A is mainly associated with internally oriented processes whereas the FPCN B is preferentially involved in externally oriented processes.

Collectively, although neuroimaging studies provide robust evidence of the involvement of the DMN and FPCN, they also demonstrate the heterogeneity of each network and their complex relationship with mind-wandering. Their role in mind-wandering and other cognitive processes further highlights the importance of considering a more nuanced functional account of these networks in explaining our ongoing thought patterns. These separate lines of research set the foundational knowledge, upon which complementary methodological approaches can then build to establish the causal relevance and mechanistic relationship underlying subcomponents within these large-scale neural networks.

Permanent damage versus temporary modulations

The classic approach to determining the necessity of specific brain regions involves the comparison of behavioral and neural patterns of individuals with and without permanent focal damage to parts of their brain[ 23 ]. This lesion methodology was famously exemplified by the discovery of the critical role of the hippocampus in memory[ 24 ]. Informed by fMRI findings, lesion studies examining mind-wandering have primarily focused on the DMN.

Another approach to determine the causal relevance of cortical regions in mind-wandering is tDCS (see [ 25 ] for a review). In contrast to the permanent damage resulting from lesions, this type of non-invasive brain stimulation technique enables the temporary and reversible modulation of cortical excitability in targeted brain regions. Importantly, the polarity of the stimulation informs the mechanistic relationship between the stimulated brain region and the cognitive function of interest. Whereas anodal stimulation is proposed to increase excitability of the underlying cortex, cathodal stimulation is thought to inhibit activity[ 26 ]. While both the DMN and FPCN have served as targets of stimulation in neurotypical individuals, tDCS studies of mind-wandering have predominantly targeted the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) as part of the FPCN based on its established role in the high-level executive control of attention[ 17 , 18 , 27 ].

While both permanent and temporary approaches inform the causality of a brain region in a given function, evidence suggests they provide unique information about the nature of that brain-behavior relationship (c.f.[ 23 ]). Permanent lesions reveal the functions of the damaged region following reorganization of the brain over time[ 28 ], whereas temporary modulations of brain regions reveal the effects of not only the region being perturbed in the moment but also the network to which this region belongs[ 29 ]. Therefore, the altered mind-wandering experience following temporary tDCS stimulation may mirror the acute phase of a lesion, and the disruption in mind-wandering resulting from chronic lesions in patient populations may reflect the permanency of the damage that has not recovered from neural plasticity.

Default mode network’s role in mind-wandering

Given that the DMN is reliably associated with mind-wandering, studies have investigated its role in two prominent aspects of the phenomenon: the frequency of its occurrence and temporal focus of thoughts while mind-wandering. In examining the frequency of mind-wandering, both lesion and tDCS studies have focused on the medial temporal lobe subsystem of the DMN[ 16 ]. This subsystem includes regions that are implicated in episodic memory retrieval and future thinking (hippocampus), and internal perception (ventromedial PFC and medial parietal lobe). Previous neuroimaging work have specifically implicated this subsystem in the episodic thought content that arise during mind-wandering[ 30 , 31 ]. In lesion studies, patients with lesions in the ventromedial PFC report less mind-wandering (conceptualized as task-unrelated thoughts) compared to neurotypical controls and patients with lesions outside of the DMN[ 32 ] (as shown in Figure 2 ). This was assessed via thought sampling probes across three lab-based tasks varying in cognitive demands. Notably, lesion symptom and network mapping analyses involving these ventromedial PFC patients revealed that some of the regions strongly linked to reduced trait level mind-wandering include the inferior parietal lobule, inferior frontal gyrus and the ventromedial PFC[ 33 ]. This corroborates the causal relevance of this region in mind-wandering propensity, and highlights the role of connectivity to other regions. In mapping out regions that are functionally connected to the lesioned area[ 34 ], this novel analytic approach holds promise in revealing not only the necessary regions but also the circuitry involved in different aspects of mind-wandering.

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is nihms-1767360-f0002.jpg

A) Patients with lesions in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) reported significantly less mind-wandering episodes compared to healthy and patient controls across three tasks (i.e. WM = working memory, CPT = continuous performance task, Passive = rest). Adapted from [ 32 ]. B) tDCS anodal stimulation of the left prefrontal cortex (+PFC) and cathodal stimulation of the right inferior parietal cortex (−PC) showed increased mind-wandering frequency compared to sham stimulation, whereas the opposite montage (−PFC/+PC) did not show significant differences compared to sham, suggesting a polarity-specific effect. Adapted from [ 43 ]. C) iEEG recordings revealed increased theta connectivity between DMN and FPCN subsystem A during mind-wandering as conceptualized by internal attention (int) compared to external attention (ext). Adapted from [ 65 ].

In contrast, patients with lesions in the hippocampus, a critical node of the medial temporal lobe subsystem, report comparable levels of mind-wandering occurrence as observed in neurotypical controls[ 35 ]. This is puzzling at first glance given fMRI findings implicating the left hippocampus in the initial occurrence of spontaneous thought and mind-wandering propensity[ 36 , 37 ]. However, a closer examination of these authors’ conceptualization of mind-wandering and the context within which mind-wandering was assessed suggests diverging definitions and testing environments may be responsible for the observed differences. Specifically, they defined mind-wandering as stimulus-independent thought and strategically placed the thought sampling probes during moments when participants were not performing any task and were minimally engaged with the external environment[ 35 ]. Their naturalistic approach contrasts with previous studies that embedded thought probes during an experimental task in a lab setting, which captures different aspects of ongoing thoughts[ 38 , 39 ]. Together, this suggests the hippocampus is not necessary for perceptually decoupled thought in under-stimulated settings with minimal cognitive demands from the external environment. However, their role in task-unrelated thoughts, especially during tasks with higher cognitive demands, remains unknown.

Expanding beyond these findings, several tDCS studies have assessed the impact of DMN stimulation on mind-wandering propensity. In particular, one group found that anodal stimulation of the right inferior parietal lobule (IPL) as part of the medial temporal lobe subsystem of the DMN, and inhibitory cathodal stimulation of the left dorsolateral PFC (DLPFC), decreased mind-wandering compared to the reversed polarity montage[ 40 ]. Replicated in two subsequent studies[ 41 , 42 ], this stimulation effect was uniquely observed in the right but not left IPL[ 42 ]. Combining tDCS with resting state fMRI, they found that anodal stimulation of the right IPL decreased its efferent connections with the posterior cingulate cortex, a core node in the DMN, which was linked to reduced mind-wandering propensity[ 41 ]. This stimulation montage also decreased medial PFC’s efferent connections with the posterior cingulate cortex, which was linked to decreased mind-wandering. Given the facilitative role of the DLPFC in mind-wandering, these findings suggest that simultaneously inhibiting the DLPFC and increasing excitability of the right IPL reduces mind-wandering by perturbing intra-DMN connectivity. By examining functional connectivity patterns following stimulation, this combination of methodological approaches provides unique insights into the neural circuitry of the DMN and its role in mind-wandering propensity. Notably, these results should be considered along with two studies that failed to replicate the effect of reduced mind-wandering frequency when they implemented anodal stimulation of the right IPL and cathodal stimulation of the left DLPFC[ 43 ] and left cheek[ 44 ] during a less cognitively demanding task. These findings suggest the causal relevance of the right IPL as part of the DMN in mind-wandering may depend on stimulation parameters or the context in which mind-wandering was measured (see Box 3 ).

Methodological challenges and suggested solutions for tDCS research.

Effects of tDCS on mind-wandering and cognitive functions are variable[ 106 ] and have been inconsistent across studies[ 107 ]. This suggests that the methodology as currently employed in many tDCS studies is of insufficient quality to provide reliable and consistent estimates of its effect on cognitive functioning. These methodological shortcomings fall into two categories: overlooking important individual factors modulating the effectiveness of tDCS, and poor study design coupled with flexible analysis methods. Regarding the first category, individual anatomy has strong effects on the distribution of the induced electric field as well as the intensity with which underlying areas of the cortex are being stimulated[ 81 ]. Another major factor shaping the electric field is the number, spatial location, material and shape of the stimulation electrodes[ 108 ]. Even small variations of these parameters can have strong impacts on the electric field. Yet, standards for these parameters are lacking from the scientific literature. Both of these challenges can be overcome by utilizing methods for individualizing both dose[ 109 ] and stimulation montages[ 110 ] based on computational models of individual structual brain scans[ 111 ], which improves standardization of the electric field across participants.

The second methodological shortcoming concerns replicability: while this issue have been raised across many scientific fields including cognitive neuroscience[ 112 ], tDCS research has been singled out as particularly vulnerable[ 113 ]. Many studies on the cognitive effects of tDCS are characterized by under-powered designs and flexible analytical methods[ 114 ], both of which have been shown to be key facilitators for non-replicable results[ 115 ]. Pre-registration (and especially pre-registered reports) has been recently identified as a powerful method to improve scientific rigor and ensure replicability[ 116 ]. By enforcing strict adherence to a pre-specified data collection and analysis plan, spurious findings can be effectively reduced. Even though several pre-registered reports have been published[ 57 , 59 ], adoption of pre-registration has been slow in the tDCS literature. However, this field is well-suited to benefit from the advantages of pre-registration due to the relatively low cost for collecting larger samples and the abundance of stimulation and analytical parameters.

Finally, the tDCS field has suffered from spurious results due to insufficient blinding procedures in standard protocols[ 117 ]. Brain-stimulation devices have been shown to produce powerful placebo effects[ 118 , 119 ], resulting in the possibility that reported findings can be attributed to effects of expectation rather than stimulation. While modern, high-definition tDCS montages have better blinding properties[ 120 ], using active control protocols can facilitate estimating the effectiveness and specificity of the primary stimulation protocols[ 121 ].

The temporal focus of thoughts is another prominent phenomenological feature of mind-wandering. In examining the content of mind-wandering thoughts, patients with lesions in both the ventromedial PFC and hippocampus report more present-focused thoughts during mind-wandering than neurotypical controls[ 32 , 35 ]. These findings are in line with the ventromedial PFC’s causal role in mental time travel[ 45 ] and in thoughts not bounded by external stimuli[ 46 ]. This pattern of thoughts was also observed in patients with a behavioral variant of fronto-temporal dementia, with atrophy in similar areas within the DMN and other distributed regions[ 37 ]. In addition to hippocampal patients’ preference for present-focused mind-wandering, their tendency towards semantic versus episodic thoughts and verbal versus visual thoughts[ 35 ] are also consistent with the medial temporal lobe’s role in mental simulations[ 9 , 32 , 47 ]. In other words, a damaged hippocampus appears to result in an inability to construct episodic events via visual imagery, which constitutes a major proportion of mind-wandering content[ 48 ]. It is possible that a damaged medial temporal lobe subsystem may result in the absence of mental content, causing thoughts to be more present-focused. In line with lesion findings, stimulation of bilateral IPL specifically decreased mind-wandering focused on negatively valenced past oriented thoughts compared to sham stimulation[ 49 ]. These results converge on the notion that the medial temporal lobe subsystem is causally involved in mental simulation during mind-wandering, without which our inner phenomenological experience is restricted to the present.

Collectively, notwithstanding the different conceptualizations of mind-wandering, these findings establish the spatial specificity of the medial temporal lobe subsystem of the DMN (as summarized in Figure 1 ). They reveal the nuanced relationship between each subregion and the frequency of mind-wandering and its phenomenological experience, suggesting they are not uniformly involved in the same aspects of mind-wandering. These patterns are consistent with neuroimaging reports of a differential relationship between the cortical thickness of two regions within the parahippocampus and varying levels of detail and task-focus of our phenomenological experience[ 39 , 50 ]. Moving beyond individual regions, lesion network mapping and combined tDCS and resting state fMRI converge on the mechanistic role of intra-DMN connectivity in mind-wandering occurrence. These novel approaches provide insights into the mechanistic circuitry underlying how the DMN is involved in aspects of mind-wandering beyond its propensity.

Fronto-parietal control network’s role in mind-wandering

Given the regulatory role of the FPCN in both external and internal cognition[ 19 , 51 ], lesion and tDCS studies have focused on the role of the DLPFC as a core node of the FPCN in mind-wandering. In our study, we compared the electrophysiological patterns observed in individuals with and without lesions in the LPFC[ 52 ]. Patients with LPFC lesions showed dysregulation of their electrophysiological response (i.e. alpha band activity) during periods when attention was focused internally (otherwise referred to as stimulus-independent thoughts). This regulatory capacity was intact in neurotypical controls and patient controls with lesions outside of the FPCN. These results suggest that the LPFC is critical for stimulus-independent thought; the impact of this lesion is manifested in the disruption of the electrophysiological activity that facilitates mind-wandering[ 53 , 54 ]. These findings build upon foundational work indicating the LPFC is critical for contextual processing[ 55 ].

In line with this finding, studies involving DLPFC stimulation also established the causal relevance of this region in mind-wandering, primarily designed to modulate its propensity. In an initial tDCS study, anodal stimulation of the left DLPFC increased mind-wandering compared to two control conditions involving sham stimulation and stimulation of the occipital region[ 56 ]. Subsequent studies have replicated this finding using stronger intensity stimulation that was independent of the location of cathode over right supraorbital or inferior parietal cortex[ 28 – 31 ] (see Figure 2 ). The authors also ruled out the possibility that meta-awareness as a result of stimulation contributed to the increased self-report of mind-wandering[ 58 ]. Despite the apparent robustness of this finding, we were unable to replicate the tDCS effect on mind-wandering in a well-powered, pre-registered study[ 59 ] using the identical stimulation and task parameters as those reported by the initial study[ 56 ]. By reporting Bayesian statistics, we were able to provide evidence for the absence of an effect of anodal DLPFC stimulation on mind-wandering. This finding raises important questions about the impact of methodological differences employed in the tDCS field on the variable outcomes across studies, which we address in Box 3 .

In a subsequent study, we used a high-definition (HD) stimulation montage, consisting of smaller electrodes where one anode was centered over the left DLPFC and surrounded by four cathodes. Computational simulations have shown that such HD-montages provide a more focal stimulation compared to the two-electrode montage[ 60 ] used in past studies. We found that anodal stimulation of left DLPFC led to a decrease in mind-wandering using the HD-montage in a different task tailored to recruit executive function[ 61 ]. One possible explanation rests on the assumption that DLPFC stimulation enhances executive resources availability. If so, these resources may be allocated to the executive function task in this study[ 60 ], thereby decreasing mind-wandering during task performance. Since the earlier studies implemented tasks that do not require executive functions[ 40 – 43 , 56 , 57 ], the enhanced resources may have been allocated to mind-wandering instead, thereby increasing its occurrence. These findings are consistent with recent work indicating the same region within DLPFC flexibly connects with different networks that are relevant to its current goals, underscoring its context-dependent role in attentional allocation[ 62 ]. Future studies are needed to clarify the role of context in tDCS modulation of mind-wandering propensity.

In summary, the heterogeneity in stimulation parameters and task choice likely contributed to these opposing results of DLPFC stimulation; however, they do converge on the critical role of the DLPFC in the occurrence of mind-wandering (as summarized in Figure 1 ). The contrasting results raise the possibility that the specific nature of its role may depend on whether the enhanced neural resources are delegated to external or internal cognitive processes, once again underscoring the importance of considering task context in accounts of mind-wandering.

Neural mechanisms underlying mind-wandering

Investigations of neural mechanisms underlying mind-wandering have heavily relied on fMRI. Using static and dynamic functional connectivity, these studies revealed correlational relationships within and across regions of the DMN and FPCN during mind-wandering[ 16 , 19 , 20 , 51 ]. Nonetheless, the coarse temporal resolution of fMRI restricts its ability to capture transient, fast-acting processes of neuronal assemblies. In contrast, iEEG offers high temporal resolution and anatomical precision, rendering it an ideal tool for assessing the transient neuronal processes subserving mind-wandering. In this section, we discuss the neurophysiological mechanism underlying mind-wandering and related spontaneous processes occurring at rest as revealed by iEEG.

Neural processes during mind-wandering

In line with neuroimaging studies, iEEG research investigating mind-wandering converges on the role of the DMN and FPCN. We authored an initial iEEG study that examined mind-wandering conceptualized as stimulus-independent thought or internal attention. Our task directs subjects’ attention to be focused on the external environment (i.e. external attention) or their internal world (internal attention). Therefore, this experimental paradigm necessitates the recruitment of control regions to successfully direct attention externally or internally.

Based on the prominent role of the PFC in modulating mind-wandering as informed by the lesion, tDCS, and neuroimaging literature, we first examined the role of the PFC as part of the FPCN. Specifically, our study compared high frequency band activity (HFA; typically quantified as 70–150+ Hz) in response to auditory stimuli during external and internal attentional focus in the LPFC as well as the temporal cortex as the control region[ 63 ]. While HFA in the LPFC was greater during external compared to internal attention, there was no evidence of such differences in the temporal cortex. These findings implicate the LPFC in the top-down control of mind-wandering. Our results support the decoupling model[ 64 ], and suggests that one mechanism by which the LPFC supports mind-wandering is by withdrawing resources from the external environment as reflected in the attenuation of HFA responses to external inputs during mind-wandering.

Informed by fMRI findings of functional connectivity between DMN and FPCN, we then examined the electrophysiological mechanism underlying the relationship between these two networks during mind-wandering. Given that parcellation of the FPCN has revealed a subsystem A that is broadly implicated in internal cognition[ 51 ], we assessed the interaction between electrodes within DMN and FPCN subsystem A. Our results indicate enhanced inter-network connectivity in the theta band (4–7Hz) during internal attention relative to external attention[ 65 ] (as shown in Figures 1 and ​ and2). 2 ). This pattern was selectively observed in the theta band, consistent with studies suggesting the selectivity of theta oscillations during internal attention processes[ 66 ] within the DMN and FPCN[ 67 , 68 ]. Remarkably, the magnitude of the inter-network theta connectivity measure predicted attention ratings during the internal attention condition, highlighting its functional role in facilitating mind-wandering. These findings suggest that enhanced functional coupling in the theta band between the DMN and FPCN subsystem A as a potential core mechanism underlying mind-wandering.

Neural processes of mind-wandering related processes during rest

Mind-wandering is often associated with thought processes that occur at rest. Since the spontaneous processes at rest are reminiscent of the stimulus-independent thought conceptualization of mind-wandering, we reviewed iEEG studies of resting state focusing on the DMN and FPCN to further delineate the neural underpinnings of mind-wandering.

Consistent with the mind-wandering literature, evidence from iEEG studies converges on the role of the DMN during rest[ 69 ]. In particular, core hubs of the DMN have shown increased HFA during sustained periods of rest[ 70 ], the magnitude of which was shown to be specifically modulated by the theta phase in the posterior medial cortex[ 67 ]. As cross-frequency coupling is proposed to be a neuronal mechanism wherein local activity is coordinated by slower frequencies at different time scales in support of complex cognitive functions[ 71 ], these findings suggest cross-frequency coupling within the DMN may be the neurophysiological mechanism underlying spontaneous processes at rest. Implementing a more fine-grained assessment, subsequent reports have revealed unique spatial and temporal patterns of electrophysiological activity within the DMN[ 72 ] as well as between the DMN and FPCN[ 21 ] during rest. For instance, neighboring electrodes within 5–10mm of each other often display different temporal profiles[ 72 ], potentially reflecting the different stages or processes of spontaneous thoughts in which the DMN is engaged. Afforded by the granularity of iEEG, these findings underscore the heterogeneity of the spatiotemporal characteristics of the DMN during rest. Such observations corroborate lesion and tDCS findings of the nuanced relationship between subregions of the DMN and different aspects of mind-wandering, emphasizing the need to consider mind-wandering as a multi-faceted phenomenon in which the DMN plays various roles.

Taken together, iEEG has offered unique insights into the precise functional neurophysiology of mind-wandering that non-invasive neuroimaging methods are not equipped to address. Leveraging the spatiotemporal resolution of iEEG, these studies have accessed core hubs of the DMN in the medial structures of the brain with the temporal precision necessary to identify neural mechanisms and preferred frequencies. They revealed the importance of theta band in coordinating activity across large-scale neural networks during mind-wandering and in modulating HFA by way of cross-frequency coupling. They also established the neurophysiological basis for the connectivity patterns observed in the BOLD signal and provided evidence for variable temporal patterns that map onto spatial heterogeneity within the DMN and FPCN at rest.

Concluding Remarks and Future Perspectives

This review aimed to inform on the neural underpinnings of mind-wandering by synthesizing evidence from lesion, tDCS and iEEG research. These findings provide strong evidence that the medial temporal lobe subsystem of the DMN (which includes the hippocampus and ventromedial PFC) and DLPFC of the FPCN are necessary for mind-wandering, albeit for different aspects of the phenomenon. Both lesion and tDCS studies converge on the mechanistic role of intra-DMN connectivity in mind-wandering propensity, revealing that perturbation in any major node can disrupt functions of the network. The reviewed studies also demonstrated that mind-wandering relies on the coordinated functioning within and across these large-scale networks at different frequency bands, in particular the theta band and high frequency activity. We suggest that achieving an in-depth understanding of the complex neural patterns underlying mind-wandering necessitates a shift away from the predominant reliance on one method towards an integration of complementary methodological approaches. Establishing the causal and mechanistic brain-behavior relationships using these different approaches is a prerequisite to successfully pinpoint effective targets for modulating attentional focus and mind-wandering content in healthy and diseased brains. By leveraging the advantages of different methods, the field can move towards achieving the goal of creating a comprehensive understanding of the neural origins of this fundamental and pervasive cognitive phenomenon.

One essential future direction includes recognizing the panoply of thought processes and content that are often jointly characterized as mind-wandering. While behavioral and neuroimaging studies have begun to reveal the heterogeneity in processes and content during mind-wandering, studies using the methodologies described here have primarily focused on the propensity of mind-wandering or the mere presence of this phenomenon, overlooking the variety of thoughts and types of mind-wandering that occupy our everyday mental life. For example, ample evidence points to a distinction between intentional and unintentional mind-wandering, which are linked to contrasting functional correlates[ 73 ]. Another feature of mind-wandering are the dynamic characteristics of thoughts[ 7 ], which are associated with unique electrophysiological signatures[ 53 ]. Accumulating evidence from neuroimaging research have begun to unravel distinct brain profiles of diverse thought processes and content in support of conceptual distinctions[ 14 , 53 , 62 ]. The implications are two-fold. In terms of achieving a brain-behavior mapping of mind-wandering, recognizing that mind-wandering is not a unitary phenomenon will help reveal the distinct brain regions and circuitry that are differentially necessary for these various thought patterns and the neural mechanisms that may underlie them. To that end, recent work has applied principal component analysis on multi-dimensional experience sampling[ 74 ] data, which effectively quantifies the complex nature of phenomenological experience in the lab and in the real world[ 50 , 62 , 75 ]. Achieving an accurate and complete understanding of the nuanced and complex landscape of ongoing thought processes during mind-wandering is a critical first step in establishing its neural basis. Another crucial area in which the research reviewed here is relevant concerns the modulation of mind-wandering using brain stimulation: future work may benefit from focusing only on reducing the undesired types and content of mind-wandering. We discuss the practical and clinical applications in Box 4 . Evidently, the diversity in our thoughts and types of mind-wandering highlight the value of using a finer grain measure of this phenomenon as an important step forward (see Outstanding Questions ). A comprehensive account of the neural basis of mind-wandering will need to consider both the process by which the mind decouples from the external environment to focus on the inner milieu[ 76 – 79 ] as well as the multitude of phenomenological experiences that occur during mind-wandering.

Heterogeneity of mind-wandering: real world implications.

Both theoretical and empirical work points towards the heterogeneity of the phenomenological experience during mind-wandering and the myriad ways in which we engage in this phenomenon. While the definition of mind-wandering has been under debate[ 6 , 122 ], we emphasize on two recent conceptualizations that have relevant practical and clinical implications. One common distinction concerns whether mind-wandering is engaged with or without intention[ 73 ]. Behavioral work on intentional and unintentional mind-wandering have revealed dissociable outcomes. Intentional mind-wandering has been associated with practical benefits, such as creativity[ 123 ] and enhanced mood. In contrast, unintentional mind-wandering has been linked to negative affect[ 124 ] in healthy individuals. Clinical work has also demonstrated increased unintentional mind-wandering but comparable intentional mind-wandering in individuals with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder symptoms[ 125 ] compared to neurotypical controls. Given that negative outcomes uniquely associated with unintentional mind-wandering, future studies aiming to modulate mind-wandering propensity in educational or occupational settings may consider focusing on unintentional mind-wandering.

Another conceptualization of mind-wandering that is particularly relevant for clinical implications concerns the dynamic nature of thoughts[ 7 , 126 , 127 ]. Recent empirical work testing this theory revealed the ubiquitous presence of thoughts that dynamically flow from one topic to another[ 128 , 129 ]. Consistent with this growing theoretical recognition that our thoughts are not static, neuroimaging evidence predominantly using dynamic functional connectivity has revealed that neural activity also dynamically fluctuates over time during mind-wandering and other spontaneous thought processes[ 12 , 21 , 130 , 131 ], suggesting that just as our thoughts are not static, neither is the brain. These thought dynamics stand in contrast to thoughts that are constrained to one topic. For instance, our thoughts can be constrained by saliency of personal concerns, which makes it very difficult to disengage from, as commonly characterized as rumination. Thoughts can also be constrained by top-down control in service of achieving a goal, as in goal-directed processes.

The clinical implications of these various thought processes are multi-fold. As examples, future work may benefit from selectively 1) reducing undesirable constrained thoughts such as rumination characteristic of major depressive disorder, 2) increasing dynamic thought in individuals with obsessive compulsive disorder, and 3) increasing focused, goal-directed thought in individuals with attention-deficit hyperactive disorder. Although studies using the multi-dimensional experience sampling approach have reported similar thought patterns in the lab and daily life, a primary difference revealed more positive thoughts about ongoing tasks in daily life compared to the lab[ 39 ]. Future studies would benefit from considering the differential impact of performing lab-constrained versus naturalistic tasks on our phenomenological experience.

Outstanding Questions

Lesion and tDCS studies have examined the impact of a focal brain region on mind-wandering; however, brain regions are inter-connected. How can we utilize our knowledge of large-scale brain networks to better understand its impact in the brain beyond the disrupted region, and the mechanism by which it modulates mind-wandering?

Given the heterogeneity of the phenomenological experience of mind-wandering (and distinct functional roles of subsystems in the DMN and FPCN), are there both common and idiosyncratic aspects of the causal and mechanistic relationship between brain and behavior related to mind-wandering? If this relationship is always context and content dependent, what is the extent of this variability within and across individuals?

Thus far, theta and high frequency band activity appears to play an important role in integrating activity across timescales and distant regions in facilitating mind-wandering. What are the roles of other frequency bands? How does oscillatory activity serve as a neurophysiological mechanism that underlie different types of mind-wandering? Does the nature of these mechanistic relationships change as a function of the nature of thoughts?

With accumulating evidence revealing unconstrained movement in thought patterns, referred to as freely moving thoughts, what is the timescale of these thought dynamics and how do these thought dynamics map onto neural dynamics?

What is the neurobiological basis of mind-wandering? A compelling framework suggests ascending neuromodulatory systems that promote sharp wave ripples in the hippocampus as a potential mechanism that initiates a mind-wandering episode. Another model of mind-wandering has proposed that norepinephrinergic activity in the locus coeruleus modulates the mind-wandering experience. Would empirical evidence support either or both conceptual models?

Beyond conceptual expansion, another area for development in establishing the causal relevance of brain regions in mind-wandering involves moving beyond target regions in order to capture the aforementioned diverse processes. Given neuroimaging work has reported regions beyond the DMN and FPCN implicated in mind-wandering[ 8 ], lesion studies expanding the regions of interest beyond the DMN and FPCN may reveal other brain structures necessary for different aspects of mind-wandering. To that end, one recent study recruited patients with lesions across different brain regions[ 33 ], and determined the lesion-associated networks linked to mind-wandering by implementing lesion network mapping analysis. Moving forward, this analytic approach implemented on a large sample would be particularly useful in delineating additional regions and their related circuitry that are causally involved in mind-wandering.

Stimulation of regions outside of the DLPFC will also likely prove to be informative; equally important for stimulation studies to consider is other non-invasive or invasive methods of stimulation. Thus far, tDCS is the most common approach to study mind-wandering and the majority of studies have targeted the DLPFC. Although improved stimulation protocols are being developed to enhance the anatomical precision of tDCS stimulation[ 60 , 80 ], modeling and simulation studies have shown that the stimulation effect of the most commonly used standard bipolar montage tends to spread well beyond the intended brain regions[ 60 ] and depends strongly on individual anatomical differences[ 81 ] (as discussed in Box 3 ). Notably, other non-invasive albeit less accessible approaches have been shown to provide more spatially precise stimulation. This includes transcranial magnetic stimulation[ 82 ] and transcranial focused ultrasound stimulation[ 83 ], an emerging technique in cognitive neuroscience with superior focality. Another way to enhance spatial precision of the targeted region is through intracranial electrical stimulation, which is an invasive neuromodulation technique that involves clinicians stimulating electrodes implanted into the brains of epilepsy patients to determine their corresponding behavioral effects. Although clinical risks must be carefully considered, this method offers excellent spatiotemporal precision important for tracking the transient effects of stimulation on mind-wandering manifested in behavior and neurophysiological activity, and identifying the regions and circuits causally linked to mind-wandering. A recent study summarizing these observed effects of stimulation has reported a range of behavioral responses upon stimulation of the DMN and FPCN[ 84 ].

Finally, the combination of advanced methodological and analytic techniques offers novel ways to provide mechanistic insights into the neural basis of mind-wandering. The aforementioned studies using lesion network mapping analysis[ 33 ] and tDCS combined with resting state fMRI functional connectivity analysis[ 41 ] exemplify these integrative approaches and demonstrated their effectiveness in addressing mechanistic questions. Other informative approaches include the examination of structural connections within and between networks underlying mind-wandering[ 85 ]. In addition, beyond delivering a direct electrical current in tDCS, transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) can modulate ongoing brain oscillations by applying oscillating electrical currents at a specific frequency band known to facilitate mind-wandering[ 86 ]. Aside from changing mind-wandering occurrence, this method potentially enables one to determine not only the necessary brain region but also the causal mechanism by which that region exerts its influence on cognition[ 87 ].

The field of cognitive neuroscience is in an unprecedented position equipped with technologically advanced tools to tackle the question of the neural underpinnings of mind-wandering. The next frontier of mind-wandering neuroscience research will likely require the integration of theory-informed, fine-grained conceptualization of mind-wandering and advanced methodological and analytical approaches to inform both basic and translational neuroscience efforts.

fMRI evidence has convincingly implicated the DMN and FPCN in mind-wandering. Less is known about which subregions in these networks are necessary , and how they facilitate mind-wandering.

A growing number of studies use the lesion and tDCS approaches to establish the causal link between DMN and FPCN subregions and mind-wandering. They have also identified the mechanistic role of intra-DMN connectivity in this phenomenon.

Intracranial EEG studies have revealed the neurophysiological mechanism underlying mind-wandering and its preferred frequencies in the theta and high frequency band for communication within and across large-scale neural networks.

To achieve an in-depth understanding of the where, when and how mind-wandering is implemented in the brain requires a shift away from the predominant reliance on one method toward an integration of complementary methodological approaches.

Acknowledgements

J.W.Y.K. is supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. R.T.K. is supported by U19 NS107609-01, NINDS R01 NS021135, and NIMH Conte Center P50 MH109429.

Publisher's Disclaimer: This is a PDF file of an unedited manuscript that has been accepted for publication. As a service to our customers we are providing this early version of the manuscript. The manuscript will undergo copyediting, typesetting, and review of the resulting proof before it is published in its final form. Please note that during the production process errors may be discovered which could affect the content, and all legal disclaimers that apply to the journal pertain.

Modulating mind-wandering using non-invasive brain stimulation

In our research, we focus on non-invasive brain stimulation to understand and potentially modulate mind wandering, with a particular emphasis on clinical applications, such as for adhd. committed to open-science principles, our team rigorously follows best methodological and statistical practices, including pre-registered reports, ensuring transparency in our findings. exploring both electrical and magnetic stimulation techniques, our work aims to offer insights into cognitive regulation. by maintaining a balanced approach between innovation and adherence to high research standards, we hope to contribute valuable knowledge that may one day translate into practical benefits for clinical populations dealing with attention-related challenges., publications.

  • Nawani, H.,   Mittner, M.   & Csifcsák, G. (2023). Modulation of Mind Wandering Using Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation: A Meta-Analysis Based on Electric Field Modeling.   NeuroImage . , pp. 120051   doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2023.120051
  • Alexandersen, A., Csifcsák, G., Groot, J. &   Mittner, M.   (2022). The Effect of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation on the Interplay between Executive Control, Behavioral Variability and Mind Wandering: A Registered Report.   Neuroimage: Reports . 2:3, pp. 100109   doi:10.1016/j.ynirp.2022.100109
  • Kam, J.,   Mittner, M.   & Knight, R. (2022). Mind-Wandering: Mechanistic Insights from Lesion, tDCS, and iEEG.   Trends in Cognitive Sciences . 0:0   doi:10.1016/j.tics.2021.12.005
  • Boayue, N., Csifcsák, G., Kreis, I., Schmidt, C., Finn, I., Vollsund, A. &   Mittner, M.  (2020). The Interplay between Executive Control, Behavioral Variability and Mind Wandering: Insights from a High-Definition Transcranial Direct-Current Stimulation Study.   European Journal of Neuroscience .   doi:10.1111/ejn.15049
  • Boayue, N., Csifcsák, G., Aslaksen, P., Turi, Z., Antal, A., Groot, J., Hawkins, G., Forstmann, B., Opitz, A., Thielscher, A. &  Mittner, M.  (2019). Increasing Propensity to Mind-Wander by Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation? A Registered Report.   The European Journal of Neuroscience .   doi:10.1111/ejn.14347

[Loading...]

Internal Attention Lab

Brain

On the relationship between unprompted thought and affective well-being: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Kam, J.W.Y., Wong, A., Thiemann, R.*, Hasan, F.*, Andrews-Hanna, J.R., & Mills, C. (in press). Psychological Bulletin .

Inside a child’s mind: The relations between mind wandering an d executive function across 8- to 12-year-olds.

Hasan, F.*, Hart, C.M .*, Graham, S.A., & Kam, J.W.Y. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 240 :105832. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2023.105832.

Intracranial recordings reveal high-frequency activity in the human temporal-parietal cortex supporting non-literal language processing. Soni, S.*, Overton, J., Kam, J.W.Y., Pexman, P., Prabhu, A., Garza, N., Saez, I., & Girgis, F. Frontiers in Neuroscience, doi: 10.3389/fnins.2023.1304031.

EEG complexity during mind wanderin g: A multiscale entropy investigation .

Cnudde, K.*, Kim, G.*, Murch, W.S., Handy, T.C., Protzner, A., Kam, J.W.Y. .   Neuropsychologia, 180,  10848 0

Recent advances in the neuroscience of spontaneous and off-task thought: implications for mental health.

Kucyi, A., Kam, J.W.Y., Andrews-Hanna, J.R. Christoff, K., & Whitfield-Gabrieli, S. Nature Mental Health, 1 , 827–840.

Detecting when the mind wanders off task in real-time: An overview and systematic review.

Kuvar, V., Kam, J.W.Y., Hutt, S., & Mills, C. (2023). In Proceedings of the 25th International Conference on Multimodal Interaction. Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 163-173.

Differential relationship between thought dimensions and momentary affect in daily life.

Thiemann, R.*, Mills, C., & Kam, J.W.Y. Psychological Research, 12,  1-12. 

Mind-wandering: Mechanistic insights from lesion, tDCS, and iEEG.

Kam, J.W.Y. Mittner, M., & Knight, R.T. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 26,  268-282. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2021.12.005

Task-unrelated thought increases after consumption of COVID-19 and general news.

Hart, C.M. * , Mills, C., Thiemann, R., Andrews-Hanna, J.R., Tomfohr-Madsen, L., & Kam, J.W.Y. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 7, 69. 

Electrophysiol ogical markers of mind wandering: A systematic r eview.

Kam, J.W.Y., Rahnuma, T., Pa rk, Y.E., Hart, C.M., Neuroimage , 258,  119372.  doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2022.119372

Daily practice of brief mindfulness training reduces negative impact of COVID-19 news exposure on affective well-being.

Kam, J.W.Y., Javed, J.*, Hart, C.M.*, Andrews-Hanna, J.R., Tomfohr-Madsen, L., & Mills, C.M. Psychological Research, doi:10.1007s00426-021- 01550-1 .

Distinct electrophysiological signatures of task-unrelated and dynamic thoughts.

Kam, J.W.Y., Irving, Z.C., Mills, C., Patel, S., Gopnik, A., & Knight, R.T. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 118,  e20 11796118.

Top-down attentional modulation in human frontal cortex: differential engagement during external and internal attention.

Kam, J.W.Y., Helfrich, R.H., Lin, J.J., Solbakk, A.K., Endestad, T., Larsson, P., & Knight, R.T.  Cerebral Cortex, 31, 873-883 .

How to interpret resting-state fMRI: ask your participants.

Gonzalez-Castillo J., Kam, J.W.Y., Hoy, C., & Bandettini, P. Journal of Neuroscience, 41, 1130-1141.

The role of the anterior nuclei of the thalamus in human memory processing.

Sweeney-Reed, C.M., Buentjen, L., Voges, J., Schmitt, F.C., Zaehle, T., Kam, J.W.Y., et al.  Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 126, 146-158.

Detection of mind wandering using EEG: within and across individuals.

Dong, H.W.*, Mills, C., Knight, R.T. & Kam, J.W.Y. Plos One, 16(5): e0251490.

I nsights into human cognition from intracranial EEG: A review of audition, memory, internal cognition, and causality.

Johnson, E.L., Kam, J.W.Y., Tzovara, A., & Knight, R.T. Journal of Neural Engineering, 17,  5.

Study protocol of the Aerobic exercise and CogniTIVe functioning in women with breAsT cancEr (ACTIVATE) trial: a two-arm, two-centre randomized controlled trial.

Brunet J., Barrett-Bernstein M., Kadravec K., Taljaard M., LeVasseur N., Srikanthan A., et al. BMC Cancer, 20, 711.

Direct comparison between a wireless dry electrode EEG system with a conventional wired wet electrode EEG system. 

Hinrichs, H., Scholz, M., Baum, A.K., Kam, J.W.Y., Knight, R.T., & Heinze, H.J. Scientific Report, 10, 5218.

A hypothesis-generating study using electrophysiology to examine cognitive function in colon cancer patients .

Hung, S.H.W., Mutti, S., Neil-Sztramko, S.E., Kam, J.W.Y., Niksirat, N., Handy, T.C., et al   Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 35, 226-232.

Functional coupling between default network and fronto-parietal control network supports internal attention.

Kam, J.W.Y., Lin, J.J., Solbakk, A.K., Endestad, T., Larsson, P., & Knight, R.T. Nature Human Behavior, 3(12), 1263-1270.

A differential role for human hippocampus in novelty and contextual processing: implications for P300.

Fonken, Y., Kam, J.W.Y., & Knight, R.T. Psychophysiology, doi: 10.1111/psyp.13400.

The influence of acetaminophen on task related attention. 

Mutti, S., Samayoa, J.A.G., Kam, J.W.Y., Randles, D., Heine, S.J., & Handy, T.C. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 13, 444.

Systematic comparison between a wireless EEG system with dry electrodes and a wired EEG system with wet electrodes.

Kam, J.W.Y.**, Griffin, S.**, Shen, A., Patel, S., Hinrichs, H., Heinze, H.J., Deouell, L.Y., & Knight, R.T. Neuroimage , 184, 119-129.

Lateral prefrontal cortex lesion impairs regulation of internally and externally directed attention .

Kam, J.W.Y., Solbakk, A.K., Endestad, T., Meling, T.R., & Knight, R.T.  Neuroimage, 175, 91-99.

Orbitofrontal damage reduces auditory sensory response in humans. 

Kam, J.W.Y., Solbakk, A.K., Funderud, I., Endestad, T., Meling, T.R., & Knight, R.T.  Cortex , 101, 309-312.

Effect of aerobic exercise on cancer-associated cognitive impairment: A proof-of-concept RCT.

Campbell, K.L., Kam, J.W.Y., Neil-Sztramko, S.E., Liu-Ambrose T., Handy T.C., Lim, H.J., et al. Psycho-oncology, 27 , 53-60.

Differential sources for two neural signatures of target detection: An electrocorticography study.

Kam, J.W.Y.**, Szczepanski, S.M.**, Canolty, R.T., Flinker, A., Auguste, K.I., Crone, N.E., et al. Cerebral Cortex, 28, 9-20.

Electrophysiological evidence for attentional decoupling during mind wandering.

Kam, J.W.Y., & Handy, T.C. In K.R. Fox & K. Christoff (Eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Spontaneous Thought . New York: Oxford University Press.

Mind-wandering as a scientific concept: Cutting through the definitional haze.

Christoff, K., Mills, C., Andrews-Hanna, J.R., Irving, Z.C., Thompson, E., Fox, K.C.R., & Kam, J.W.Y.  Trends in Cognitive Science , 22, 957-959.

The wandering mind: How the brain allows us to mentally wander off to  another time and place​.

Kam, J.W.Y. Frontiers for Young Minds, 5:25. doi: 10.3389/frym.2017.00025

Altered regional activation during prepotent response inhibition in breast cancer survivors treated with chemotherapy.

Kam, J.W.Y., Boyd, L.A., Hsu, C.L., Liu-Ambrose, T., Handy, T.C., Lim, H.J., et al. Brain Imaging and Behavior, 10(3), 840-848.​

Acetaminophen attenuates error evaluation in cortex.

Randles, D., Kam, J.W.Y., Heine, S.J., Inzlicht, M., & Handy, T.C.  Social, Cognitive, and Neuroscience, 11(6), 899-906.

Sustained attention abnormalities in breast cancer survivors with cancer-associated cognitive deficits post chemotherapy: An electrophysiological study. 

Kam, J.W.Y., Brenner, C.A., Handy, T.C., Boyd, L.A., Liu-Ambrose, T., Lim, H.J., et al. Clinical Neurophysiology, 127(1), 369-378.

Migraine and attention to visual events during mind wandering​.

Kam, J.W.Y., Mickleborough, M.J.S., Eades, C. & Handy, T.C. Experimental Brain Research , 233, 1503-1510.

Mind wandering and selective attention to the external.

Kam, J.W.Y., & Handy, T.C.  Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 69, 183-189.

Electroencephalogram recording in humans.

Kam, J.W.Y.,  & Handy, T.C.  In E. Covey & M. Carter (Eds.). Basic Methods in Electrophysiology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Visual asymmetry revisited: Mind wandering preferentially disrupts processing in the left visual field

Kam, J.W.Y., Nagamatsu, L.S., & Handy, T.C. Brain and Cognition, 92C, 32-38 .​

Differential recruitment of executive resources during mind wandering.

Handy, T.C. & Kam, J.W.Y.,  Consciousness and Cognition, 26, 51-63.

I don’t feel your pain: The desensitizing effect of mind wandering on the perception of others’ discomfort . 

Kam, J.W.Y., & Handy, T.C., Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience, 14, 286-296 .

The functional consequences of mind wandering: A mechanistic account of sensory and cognitive decoupling.

Kam, J.W.Y., & Handy, T.C.  Frontiers in Perception Science, 4, 725. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00725 .

Resting  state EEG power and coherence abnormalities in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia .

Kam, J.W.Y., Bolbecker, A.R., O’Donnell, B.F., Hetrick, W.P., & Brenner, C.A.  Journal of Psychiatric Research, 47,1 893-1901 .

Mind wandering and falls risk in older adults: Evidence for failures in compensatory cognition. 

Nagamatsu, L.S., Kam, J.W.Y., Liu-Ambrose, T., Chan, A., & Handy, T.C . Psychology and Aging, 28, 685-691 .

Mind wandering and the adaptive control of attentional resources.

Kam, J.W.Y., Dao, E., Stanciulescu, M., Tildesley, H., & Handy, T.C. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 25, 952-960.

Mind wandering and motor control: off-task thinking disrupts the online adjustment of behavior.

Kam, J.W.Y., Dao, E., Blinn, P., Krigolson, O.E., Boyd, L.A. & Handy, T.C. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6, 329. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00329

Differential relationships between subtraits  of BIS-11 impulsivity and executive processes: An ERP study.

Kam, J.W.Y., Dominelli, R., & Carlson, S.R. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 85, 174-187.

Mind wandering facilitates creative incubation. 

Baird, B., Smallwood J., Mrazek, M.D., Kam, J.W.Y., Franklin, M.S., & Schooler, J.W. Psychological Science, 23, 1117-1122.

Differential synchronization in default and task-specific networks of the human brain.

Kirschner, A., Kam, J.W.Y., Handy, T.C., & Ward, L.M. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6, 139. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00139.

Slow fluctuations in attentional control of visual cortex​.

Kam, J.W.Y., Dao, E., Farley, J., Fitzpatrick, K., Smallwood, J., & Schooler, J.W., & Handy, T.C. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23, 460-470 .​

Prospective predictors of mood episodes in bipolar disorders.

Kam, J.W.Y., Bolbecker, A.R., O’Donnell, B.F., Hetrick, W.P., & Brenner, C.A.  Journal of Affective Disorder, 135, 298-304.

BETTER / SMARTER .ME

Newsroom 1-800-328-IFHP

Mind-wandering: mechanistic insights from lesion, tdcs, and ieeg, published on january 25, 2022.

Cognitive neuroscience has witnessed a surge of interest in investigating the neural correlates of the mind when it drifts away from an ongoing task and the external environment. To that end, functional neuroimaging research has consistently implicated the default mode network (DMN) and frontoparietal control network (FPCN) in mind-wandering. Yet, it remains unknown which subregions within these networks are necessary and how they facilitate mind-wandering. In this review, we synthesize evidence from lesion, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), and intracranial electroencephalogram (iEEG) studies demonstrating the causal relevance of brain regions, and providing insights into the neuronal mechanism underlying mind-wandering.

Read Full Article (External Site)

Dr. David Lowemann

Dr. David Lowemann, M.Sc, Ph.D., is a co-founder of the Institute for the Future of Human Potential, where he leads the charge in pioneering Self-Enhancement Science for the Success of Society. With a keen interest in exploring the untapped potential of the human mind, Dr. Lowemann has dedicated his career to pushing the boundaries of human capabilities and understanding.

Armed with a Master of Science degree and a Ph.D. in his field, Dr. Lowemann has consistently been at the forefront of research and innovation, delving into ways to optimize human performance, cognition, and overall well-being. His work at the Institute revolves around a profound commitment to harnessing cutting-edge science and technology to help individuals lead more fulfilling and intelligent lives.

Dr. Lowemann’s influence extends to the educational platform BetterSmarter.me, where he shares his insights, findings, and personal development strategies with a broader audience. His ongoing mission is shaping the way we perceive and leverage the vast capacities of the human mind, offering invaluable contributions to society’s overall success and collective well-being.

Related posts:

  • Mind Games: Game Engines as an Architecture for Intuitive Physics
  • Associative Learning Should Go Deep
  • Chinese versus English: Insights on Cognition during Reading
  • Continuous Flash Suppression: Stimulus Fractionation rather than Integration

© 2024 BETTER/SMARTER.ME , A division of the Institute for the Future of Human Potential 200 First St. SW Rochester, MN 55905 | 1-800-328-IFHP IFHRP research has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration or any government agency. IFHRP research is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.

IMAGES

  1. Mind-wandering: mechanistic insights from lesion, tDCS, and iEEG

    mind wandering mechanistic insights from lesion tdcs and ieeg

  2. Mind-wandering: mechanistic insights from lesion, tDCS, and iEEG

    mind wandering mechanistic insights from lesion tdcs and ieeg

  3. Mind-wandering: mechanistic insights from lesion, tDCS, and iEEG

    mind wandering mechanistic insights from lesion tdcs and ieeg

  4. TDCS and TMS-EEG setting. Panel a: individual MRI 3D reconstruction

    mind wandering mechanistic insights from lesion tdcs and ieeg

  5. tDCS + Monitoring Solutions

    mind wandering mechanistic insights from lesion tdcs and ieeg

  6. Transferability of cathodal tDCS effects from the primary motor to the

    mind wandering mechanistic insights from lesion tdcs and ieeg

VIDEO

  1. Age-Defying Nutrients! How Antioxidants Help You Live Longer

  2. Trump Trial Bombshell Testimony: What Did David Pecker Really Say in Court Today? Find Out Now!

  3. mind wandering !

  4. Walking tour : wandering around the market of mountainous ethnic people

  5. Interesting Facts Mind Wandering, Psychology

  6. My mind keeps wandering… #wander #handsome #mind

COMMENTS

  1. Mind-wandering: mechanistic insights from lesion, tDCS, and iEEG

    In this review, we synthesize evidence from lesion, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), and intracranial electroencephalogram (iEEG) studies demonstrating the causal relevance of brain regions, and providing insights into the neuronal mechanism underlying mind-wandering. We propose that the integration of complementary approaches is ...

  2. Mind-wandering: mechanistic insights from lesion, tDCS, and iEEG

    In this review, we synthesize evidence from lesion, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), and intracranial electroencephalogram (iEEG) studies demonstrating the causal relevance of brain ...

  3. Mind-wandering: mechanistic insights from lesion, tDCS, and iEEG

    Semantic Scholar extracted view of "Mind-wandering: mechanistic insights from lesion, tDCS, and iEEG" by J. Kam et al.

  4. Europe PMC

    Our attention often drifts away from the ongoing task to task-unrelated thoughts, a phenomenon commonly referred to as mind wandering. Ample studies dedicated to delineating its electrophysiological correlates have revealed distinct event-related potentials (ERP) and spectral patterns associated with mind wandering.

  5. New perspectives for the modulation of mind-wandering using

    Here we summarize recent research aiming to investigate whether states of mind-wandering can be modulated using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a non-invasive, reversible means of altering neuronal excitability and in turn, cortical activity.

  6. PPT www.cell.com

    (A) Patients with lesions in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) reported significantly less mind-wandering episodes compared to healthy and patient controls across three tasks [i.e., working memory (WM), continuous performance task (CPT), and rest (Passive)]. Adapted from [32]. (B) Transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) anodal stimulation of the left prefrontal cortex (+PFC ...

  7. Lesion network mapping demonstrates that mind‐wandering is associated

    In the current study, we conducted a lesion network mapping analysis to test the hypothesis that lesions affecting the DMN and FPN would be associated with diminished mind‐wandering.

  8. Mind-wandering: mechanistic insights from lesion, tDCS, and iEEG

    Similar Items. Improved multitasking following prefrontal tDCS by: Hannah L. Filmer Published: (2013) For a minute there, I lost myself … dosage dependent increases in mind wandering via prefrontal tDCS

  9. Matthias Mittner

    In this review, we synthesize evidence from lesion, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), and intracranial electroencephalogram (iEEG) studies demonstrating the causal relevance of brain regions, and providing insights into the neuronal mechanism underlying mind-wandering.

  10. Mind-wandering: mechanistic insights from lesion, tDCS, and iEEG

    In this review, we synthesize evidence from lesion, transcranial direct current stimulation and intracranial EEG studies demonstrating the causal relevance of brain regions, and providing insights into the neuronal mechanism underlying mind-wandering.

  11. Julia WY Kam

    In this review, we synthesize evidence from lesion, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), and intracranial electroencephalogram (iEEG) studies demonstrating the causal relevance of brain regions, and providing insights into the neuronal mechanism underlying mind-wandering.

  12. PDF Mind-wandering: mechanistic insights from lesion, tDCS, and iEEG

    By integrating evidence from lesion, tDCS and iEEG studies, we present a synthesis that establishes the causal relevance of brain regions and provides insight into the neural mechanisms underlying mind-wandering. Empirical studies investigating the neural basis of mind-wandering have primarily relied on functional MRI.

  13. Issue: Trends in Cognitive Sciences

    In this review, we synthesize evidence from lesion, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), and intracranial electroencephalogram (iEEG) studies demonstrating the causal relevance of brain regions, and providing insights into the neuronal mechanism underlying mind-wandering.

  14. Julia W. Y. Kam

    Mind-wandering: mechanistic insights from lesion, tDCS, and iEEG. Knight Lab. April 7, 2022

  15. Modulating mind-wandering using non-invasive brain stimulation

    We conducted a meta-analysis on all studies using electric brain stimulation (a specific method called tDCS) and how they affected mind-wandering. We used computational models to quantify how strong the stimulation affected different brain areas. We found that the effects of the stimulation were very inconsistent and disappeared when better methods were used.

  16. publications

    The wandering mind: How the brain allows us to mentally wander off to another time and place .

  17. New perspectives for the modulation of mind-wandering using

    Here we summarize recent research aiming to investigate whether states of mind-wandering can be modulated using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a non-invasive, reversible means of altering neuronal excitability and in turn, cortical activity.

  18. PDF MONDAY MEMO

    A growing number of studies use the lesion and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) approaches to establish the causal link between DMN and FPCN subregions and mind-wandering. They have also identified the mechanistic role of intra-DMN connectivity in this phenomenon.

  19. Mind-wandering: mechanistic insights from lesion, tDCS, and iEEG

    Europe PMC is an archive of life sciences journal literature.

  20. Mind-wandering: mechanistic insights from lesion, tDCS, and iEEG

    In this review, we synthesize evidence from lesion, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), and intracranial electroencephalogram (iEEG) studies demonstrating the causal relevance of brain regions, and providing insights into the neuronal mechanism underlying mind-wandering. Read Full Article (External Site)

  21. Left hemisphere dominance for bilateral kinematic encoding in the human

    Neurophysiological studies in humans and nonhuman primates have revealed movement representations in both the contralateral and ipsilateral hemispheres. Inspired by clinical observations, we ask if this bilateral representation differs for the left and right hemispheres. Electrocorticography was recorded in human participants during an instructed-delay reaching task, with movements produced ...

  22. Wandering Minds: The Default Network and Stimulus-Independent Thought

    It was demonstrated that mind-wandering is associated with activity in a default network of cortical regions that are active when the brain is "at rest" and individuals' reports of the tendency of their minds to wander were correlated with activity on this network.