Towards a neuroscience of mind-wandering

Michal Gruberger*, Eti Ben-Simon, Yechiel Levkovitz, Abraham Zangen, Talma Hendler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Mindwandering (MW) is among the most robust and permanent expressions of human conscious awareness, classically regarded by philosophers, clinicians, and scientists as a core element of an intact sense of self. Nevertheless, the scientific exploration of MW poses unique challenges; MW is by nature a spontaneous, off task, internal mental process which is often unaware and usually difficult to control, document or replicate. Consequently, there is a lack of accepted modus operandi for exploring MW in a laboratory setup, leading to a relatively small amount of studies regarding the neural basis of MW. In order to facilitate scientific examination of MW the current review categorizes recent literature into five suggested strategies. Each strategy represents a different methodology of MW research within functional neuroimaging paradigms. Particular attention is paid to restingstate brain activity and to the "defaultmode" network. Since the default network is known to exert high activity levels during offtask conditions, it stands out as a compelling candidate for a neurobiological account of mindwandering, in itself a restbased phenomenon. By summarizing the results within and across strategies we suggest further insights into the neural basis and adaptive value of MW, a truly intriguing and unique human experience.

Original languageEnglish
Article number56
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberJUNE
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Defaultmode network
  • Mindwandering
  • Neuroimaging
  • Resting state
  • Self
  • Stimulus independent thought
  • Task independent thought
  • fMRI


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