Humans mind-wander quite intensely. Mind wandering is markedly different from other cognitive behaviors because it is spontaneous, self-generated, and inwardly directed (inner thoughts). However, can such an internal and intimate mental function also be modulated externally by means of brain stimulation? Addressing this question could also help identify the neural correlates of mind wandering in a causal manner, in contrast to the correlational methods used previously (primarily functional MRI). In our study, participants performed a monotonous task while we periodically sampled their thoughts to assess mind wandering. Concurrently, we applied transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). We found that stimulation of the frontal lobes [anode electrode at the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), cathode electrode at the right supraorbital area], but not of the occipital cortex or sham stimulation, increased the propensity to mind-wander. These results demonstrate for the first time, to our knowledge, that mind wandering can be enhanced externally using brain stimulation, and that the frontal lobes play a causal role in mind-wandering behavior. These results also suggest that the executive control network associated with the DLPFC might be an integral part of mind-wandering neural machinery.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Transcranial direct current stimulation increases propensity to mind-wander
Alelrod et al. show that stimulation of the frontal lobe areas involved in our attentional network increase mind wandering associated with our default mode network (see previous posts here and here for discussion of these networks).