At some point during a long work day, we're all in need of a mental escape. But as soon as we notice our minds drifting off, we usually try to yank it back down to earth, because daydreaming is often associated with an inability to focus.
However, a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has shown that daydreaming can actually improve our ability to perform tasks.
Scientists at Bar-Ilan University are the first to demonstrate how an external stimulus of low-level electricity can literally change the way we think, producing a measurable increase in the rate at which daydreams occur. This is the first time a region of the brain was identified as the source for triggering daydreams.
For the investigation, participants were treated with tDCS, a painless procedure that uses low-level electricity to stimulate specific brain regions. The researchers found that when the frontal lobes were stimulated, subjects said their minds started wandering.
The findings also indicated that increased mind wandering produced by external stimulation doesn't impede a subject's ability to focus on a task — in fact, it helps.
Co-author Moshe Bar believes this may have to do with the convergence of thought-freeing activity and thought-controlling functions in the brain.
"This cross-brain involvement may be involved in behavioral outcomes such as creativity and mood, and may also contribute to the ability to stay successfully on-task while the mind goes off on its merry mental way," he said in a press release.
So next time your head's in the clouds, let it stay up there, because apparently, the conditions are designed for optimal cog-turning.