A treatment for daydreaming? Scientists develop an electronic ALARM that sounds whenever it detects your mind has wandered
- Scientists can identify when you lose concentration based on your brain activity
- They developed an electronic alarm that sounds each time this happens
- People given this treatment daydream significantly less often, study suggests
Daydreamers who are easily distracted could soon have a solution to stop their minds wandering.
Scientists can identify when someone starts to lose concentration based on their brain activity, and sound an electronic alarm each time it happens.
People given this treatment then daydream significantly less often, a small study suggests.
The study included 36 people under the age of 60 given a focused task, which required them to press a key every time a number flashed up on a screen, unless it was the number three.
Daydreamers who are easily distracted could soon have a solution to stop their minds wandering (stock image)
If your children are easily distracted, they are not alone.
Schoolchildren spend about a quarter of the time daydreaming when they should be listening, researchers have found.
A study of almost 100 children aged six to 11 tested how much their mind wandered while being told a story.
Asked every two minutes if they were thinking about something else, the children admitted daydreaming 25 per cent of the time.
For one boy, the figure was 83 per cent.
About every 18 seconds they were asked how intensely they were focused on the task, to determine when their mind wandered.
After identifying people’s brain activity when their mind was wandering, using electrodes placed on their scalp, researchers gave them the 20-minute numbers task again.
This time more than half of the people in the group heard an electronic alert whenever their brain patterns showed their mind had drifted.
Their minds wandered less often after hearing the noises, compared to people not given alerts when they were daydreaming.
It suggests a set of electrodes on the head, and a warning noise, could help daydreamers concentrate better on what they are supposed to be doing.
Normally, people spend a quarter to a half of their time thinking random thoughts when they should be concentrating.
Dr Issaku Kawashima, who led the study from the ATR Brain Information Communication Research Laboratory Group in Japan, said: ‘Our ultimate goal is to develop neurofeedback training which allows people to manage their mind-wandering in a beneficial manner.’
Mind-wandering can make people less productive and is linked to depression.
Scientists can identify when someone starts to lose concentration based on their brain activity, and sound an electronic alarm each time it happens (stock image)
The study, published in the journal Neural Networks, gave 20 of the volunteers electronic noises to indicate when their minds were wandering, while 16 heard noises at random.
Both groups were told the electronic noises, which occurred 35 times on average, were random, and that they should ignore them.
Researchers wanted to understand if using sounds when people’s minds wandered helped them realise it was happening and stop doing it as much.
So, before and after hearing the sounds, they asked the study group to concentrate on their breathing for 15 minutes, pressing a button every time their mind wandered, with prompts asking them if their mind was wandering every 60 seconds.
It is normal for people to daydream more in the second breathing task session, as it becomes more repetitive and dull.
But those played sounds to alert them to their wandering minds seemed better able to keep their daydreaming under control, reporting doing it only 44 per cent of the time in the second session.
In contrast, people not played sounds to make them aware when they were daydreaming did it 55 per cent of the time in the second session.
HOW CAN YOU TRIGGER DÉJÀ VU?
Scientists claim to have cracked the mystery of déjà vu – and say not experiencing it could be a sign on health issues.
Scientists claim to have cracked the mystery of deja vu. Stock image
Akira O’Connor at the University of St Andrews used fMRI to scan the brains of 21 volunteers after they were given triggers.
O’Connor and his team used a way to trigger the sensation of déjà vu in the lab using a method pioneered by Josie Urquhart.
It uses a standard method to trigger false memories.
Subjects are read a list of related words – such as bed, pillow, night, dream – but not the key word linking them together, in this case, sleep.
When the person is later quizzed on the words they’ve heard, they tend to believe they have also heard ‘sleep’ – a false memory.
To create the feeling of déjà vu,
the team asked people if they had heard any words beginning with the letter ‘s’.
The volunteers replied that they hadn’t.
This meant that when they were later asked if they had heard the word sleep, they were able to remember that they couldn’t have, but at the same time, the word felt familiar.
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