Washington: A new study has revealed that reminiscing can help enhance the performance while performing challenging mental tasks.
The research led by Cornell University neuroscientist Nathan Spreng showed that for the first time that engaging brain areas linked to so-called "off-task" mental activities (such as mind-wandering and reminiscing) could actually enhance the mental performance.
The results advanced the understanding of how externally and internally focused neural networks interact to facilitate complex thought.
There are plenty of neuroimaging studies showing that default network activation interferes with complex mental tasks but in most, Spreng explained, the mental processes associated with default network conflict with task goals.
If people start thinking about what they did last weekend while taking notes during a lecture, for example, their note-taking and ability to keep up would suffer.
The researchers developed a new approach in which off-task processes such as reminiscing could support rather than conflict with the aims of the experimental task. Their novel task, "famous faces n-back," tests whether accessing long-term memory about famous people, which typically engages default network brain regions, could support short-term memory performance, which typically engages executive control regions.
The results showed that activity in the default brain regions could support performance on goal-directed tasks when task demands align with processes supported by the default network.
Spreng further mentioned that the default network and executive control networks dynamically interact to facilitate an ongoing dialogue between the pursuit of external goals and internal meaning.
The study is published in the Journal of Neuroscience.