If you've ever found your mind wandering in an important meeting or conversation, it may be a sign that your brain is actually more efficient than others'. A new study published in the journal Neuropsychologia shows a link between daydreaming and high levels of intelligence and creativity, debunking the idea that dreamers suffer from low attention spans and are worse off for it.
Researchers asked more than 100 participants to lie in an fMRI scanner at rest for five minutes. Afterward, they measured fluid intelligence, executive function, and mind wandering to analyze brain activity and how it relates to focus, mind wandering, and intelligence. "The correlated brain regions gave us insight about which areas of the brain work together during an awake, resting state," like mind wandering, leading researcher Christine Godwin, a Georgia Tech psychology Ph.D. candidate told Science Daily.
Long story short, an area of the brain called the default mode network (DMN) is most active when people are not engaged with the outer world, at rest, or doing self-involved activities. The DMN showed increased activity at rest for mind wanderers, reflecting their ability to withdraw, turn in, and process internally even when in a social setting. Unlike the DMN, the frontoparietal control network (FCPN) turns on with active tasks, but mind wanderers showed increased activity between the DMN and FPCN, suggesting active thought processing even in a passive state. And finally, researchers found significant, positive correlations between mind wandering and fluid intelligence and creativity.
This is all to say that hard work and creative thinking can look like a whole lot of nothing from the outside and that our minds need time to process and integrate. Next time you catch yourself dreaming, cut yourself some slack—it's your genius at work.
Next time you crave brain food, try yoga instead of more online reading—it can actually change your brain.