Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wandering Brain

Earlier this week I read an article that was published on dealing with the Wandering Brain.  Apparently, some people can control pain with a Wandering Brain.  Research by Wendy Davis at theUniversity of Toronto indicates that “mind-wanderers” were able to function better on cognitive tests if they focused their thoughts away from the pain than those who focused on the pain.

While small, the study and preliminary findings indicate non-medical treatment for pain sufferers might be available in a somewhat easy manner.  A focused thought is not quite the same as day-dreaming but it reminds me of an old adage, “Take your mind off of it.”  Perhaps there is some science or truth behind that expression.

Some of you may remember sitting through boring, painful, early morning lecture classes as a college freshman.  The text books had all the information and note taking was merely writing down the same information you highlighted the night before and therefore was mostly, by me anyway, perfunctory and incomplete.  So the student’s mind does what it tends to do, wander, daydream, or sleep. 

In smaller classes the teacher could catch the wanders, those off on an imaginary trip.  As a teacher myself I have on occasion asked a student where he or she was.  This question was directed at their mental state not their physical location.  It usually got a chuckle from them and their classmates and then a return to the classroom activity.  I hope they were merely bored and not in pain from my classes.  Although being merely bored or in pain from my class did not reflect well on my technique or the subject matter at that moment.  The need to ask that question usually was a prompt for me to change and re-engage the class.  Mind-wandering was okay for the student but not for the instructor.

Large lecture halls of the 1960s excelled in the creation of mind-wandering situations.   I have seen card games in progress, students working on other homework assignments, and outright sleeping.  But the blank looks that appeared on the faces of the wandering student raise another question:  Where do we go when we mind-wander?  Good research and blog writing should not just give static opinions by the author but prompt or ask other questions that promote critical dialogue.

So where do we go when we wander?  Answers to that question vary by individual, some people relieve past experiences of their youth or merely last weekend, others speculate on what if situations, or dwell on upcoming events with dread or anticipation.  Come back next blog for a trip in mind-wandering.

Update:  My mind has wandered and I entered a contest to write a 50,000 novel in one month for National Novel Writing Month.  The clock is ticking now.  No more posts until the end of November.  

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  1. The mind wanders because it can. That's what it does when it is not engaged in a task. Refining that wander to a chapter book makes an author. The older I get, the more important my daydreams become. Well....that's how I see it. Mind wandering, according to research, is not necessarily adaptive, but can be.

  2. My next blog will continue to Wander in unknown directions (at this time). But there is a relationship between mind-wandering and creativity.

    Thanks for your comments.