When Mind Wandering Goes Into Overdrive

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A kind of mind wandering that disturbs a person's ability to remain engaged at any task at hand is not hard to imagine. Based on The Restless Mind - Psychological Bulletin and The Task Unrelated Thought: The Role Of Distributed Processing, this type of mind wandering is associated with attentional lapses, or digression due to lack of focus on the task at hand.

When performing a certain task, there's an aspect of your mind that has to be engaged in order for you to make sense of what you're doing and ensure that desired results are yielded. "However, mind wandering, like other goal-related processes, can be engaged without explicit awareness; thus, mind wandering can be seen as a goal-driven process, albeit one that is not directed toward the primary task," -The Restless Mind (Jonathan Smallwood, Jonathan W. Schooler).

In a person with a short attention span or someone who has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a simple task such as reading this article with full concentration, can be challenging.. unless he or she has a particularly keen interest in whatever I have to say.

"I was trying to daydream but my mind kept wandering." -Steven Wright

In children with ADHD, scientific studies found that they have trouble in "switching off" the default mode network of their brains - the part that becomes active when we are daydreaming, or doing nothing which often results in spontaneous thoughts.

In normal children without ADHD, the default mode is suppressed as they become focused on the task at hand. They also do not need any incentives to keep focusing on completing the required task as shown by brain scans - the default network mode remains switched off.

According to Prof Chris Hollis who led the study - which was published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry - brain scan comparison of children with ADHD against a group of children without the condition revealed that unless the incentive was high or they have taken their medication, the children with ADHD would fail to switch off the default mode and perform poorly.

It means that if a child with ADHD finds a task boring as hell, she will not be able to control the mind wandering state - which explains why she gets easily distracted.

This often creates a perception that the child is just being a brat, but the recent study have indicated that perhaps controlling the background brain activity may be a very real challenge for those with ADHD as their mind-wandering control switch is faulty.

Image Credit By Order Of Appearance
-ADHD [art by Lucas Sams]: "Derive"-Collaboration with Patrick Jeffords at adhdart.blogspot.com
-"RESTLESS" by Vikki North at theredchairgallery.com

shanaz@RS | 11:32 AM | Labels:

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