Reminiscing May Improve Productivity

Senior ReminiscingA recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found evidence to support the notion that taking time for the brain to rest and wander can improve performance of some tasks. Until recently, activation of the default network, which is the group of brain regions associated with performing internally focused tasks such as reminiscing and daydreaming, was thought to suppress the performance of the dorsal attention network, which controls attention and goal-oriented tasks. However, researchers at Cornell University were among the first to prove that the default network may not always be competing with the dorsal attention network.

In this study, the researchers took a new approach, which was to test subjects on tasks that are both goal-oriented and require mind-wandering or reminiscing. In the study, the researchers conducted functional neuroimaging on 36 adults as they were shown a sequence of famous and non-famous faces. The participants were then asked to identify and match faces that had appeared earlier in the sequence. While the goal-oriented task of identifying and matching faces from previously shown pictures requires attention, looking at famous faces activates the default network as subjects reminisce about these figures.

Researchers found that participants were not only faster but more accurate in identifying and matching famous faces as opposed to non-famous ones, and that better performance was associated with greater activity in the default network. These findings suggest that the activation of the default network can benefit performance of specific tasks that access long-term memory.

The researchers highlight that many everyday goals necessitate knowledge of past experiences, motivators or future plans, which all activate the default network by way of reminiscing or day-dreaming. Evidence as in this study proves that the default network and the dorsal attention network work together more often than researchers previously realized.


Gibson, Jennifer. “Improve Cognition With A Trip Down Memory Lane.” Brain Blogger Improve Cognition With A Trip Down Memory Lane Comments. N.p., n.d. Web.

Lees, Kathleen. “Reminiscing Is Good For The Brain When It Comes To Learning.” Science World Report. N.p., 23 Oct. 2014. Web.