Often daydreaming, a common experience, can be a sanctuary from the daily humdrum of life. However, it’s some people also dismiss it as escapism. Now, a new study shows that daydreaming could help with learning and memory consolidation.
The study, led by researchers from Harvard University, investigated daydreaming in mice and found neurons fired in a pattern similar to one that occurred when they looked at an actual image, indicating that they were daydreaming about the image. This study provides preliminary evidence that daydreams can shape the brain’s future response to what it sees, the university’s statement explained.
The findings, published in the journal Nature, showed that daydreams during quiet waking could impact brain plasticity — the brain’s ability to remodel itself in response to new experiences. “We wanted to know how this daydreaming process occurred on a neurobiological level, and whether these moments of quiet reflection could be important for learning and memory,” lead author Nghia Nguyen said in the statement.
For the researchers, the findings show that it could be important to make space for moments of quiet waking that lead to daydreams. It could be taking a pause from the constant scrolling on a smartphone. If people do not give themselves any awake downtime, they are not going to have many daydream events which could be important for brain plasticity, the researchers explained in the statement.
Previous studies have also shown that daydreaming could be a good thing as it could reduce stress, help in problem-solving, and improve creativity. For instance, a 2017 study published in the journal Neuropsychologia revealed that daydreaming during meetings might not be a bad thing. In fact, it could be a sign that the person is smart and creative as people with efficient brains may have too much brain capacity to stop their minds from wandering.
These studies show that daydreaming, which gives the mind time to introspect, can be beneficial and could even have a positive impact on the brain.