An idle brain may be the self's workshop.
'Recent research suggests that mind-wandering may be important and that knowledge of how it works might help treat such conditions as Alzheimer's disease, autism, depression and schizophrenia.' Once upon a time, scientists didn't regard idle musings of the wandering mind as very important. 'But in the span of a few short years, they have instead come to view mental leisure as important, purposeful work — work that relies on a powerful and far-flung network of brain cells firing in unison. Neuroscientists call it the "default mode network."''Understanding that setting may do more than lend respectability to the universal practice of zoning out: It may one day help diagnose and treat psychiatric conditions as diverse as Alzheimer's
— all of which disrupt operations in the default mode network. Beyond that lies an even loftier promise. As neuroscientists study the idle brain, some believe they are exploring a central mystery in human psychology: where and how our concept of "self" is created, maintained, altered and renewed.'
'During these moments of errant thought, the brain is forming a set of mental rules about our world, particularly our social world, that help us navigate human interactions and quickly make sense of and react to information — about a stranger's intentions, a child's next move, a choice before us — without having to run a complex and conscious calculation of all our values, expectations and beliefs.'
'Neuroscientists suspect that the default mode network may speak volumes about our mental health, based on studies in the last three years
that suggest it is working slightly differently in people with depression, autism and other disorders.'
'That fact underscores a point: Just as sleep appears to play an important role in learning, memory consolidation and maintaining the body's metabolic function, some scientists wonder whether unstructured mental time — time to zone out and daydream — might also play a key role in our mental well-being. If so, that's a cautionary tale for a society that prizes productivity and takes a dim view of mind-wandering.
Such social pressure, Schooler says, overlooks the lessons from studies on the resting brain — that zoning out and daydreaming, indulged in at appropriate times, might serve a larger purpose in keeping us healthy and happy.'