Cognitive Neuroscience

Experimental research from the cognitive neuroscience perspective is chiefly concerned with two aspects of the mind-wandering experience:

  1. The identification of the neural systems that provide the content when mind-wandering takes place.  Current evidence suggests that some of the aspects of the brain that generate mind-wandering may be part of the default mode network.  These are a series of brain regions that were initially identified by their tendency to be more active when individuals were at rest in an fMRI scanner with no obvious external task to perform.
  2. The process by which the mind disengages from the processing of external information known as decoupling.  Studies have revealed that the cortical response of the mind to external events is reduced when the mind is engaged in an internally directed train of thought.

Articles:

Going AWOL in the brain: mind-wandering reduces cortical analysis of external events

Experience sampling during fMRI

Slow fluctuations in attentional control of sensory cortex (Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience)

Pupillometirc evidence for the decoupling of attention from perceptual input during offline thought