Date: 25 October 2017
Researchers have found that the ‘default mode network’ (DMN) in the brain, previously associated with daydreaming, plays an important role in allowing us to perform tasks on autopilot.
A team from the University of Cambridge have carried out a study using MRI to measure changes in brain oxygen levels in participants carrying out a card matching task. Twenty-eight participants took part in the study supported by the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre.
The most interesting difference in brain activity was found when comparing the stage at which participants were learning the rules of the task and the stage at which participants applied these rules - the latter was when DMN was more active.
They found that in those with a stronger relationship between activity in the DMN and regions of the brain associated with memory during the stage of applying task rules, the more accurately they performed the task.
This suggests that the DMN is key in helping us to make fast decisions when we know what the rules of the environment are, enabling us to perform tasks without having to invest lots of time and energy into the decision making process.
The researchers believe their findings have relevance to brain injury, mental health disorders and the mechanisms of anaesthetic agents and other drugs on the brain.
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