Researchers say that we are daydreaming 10-20% of the time. In any given classroom across the United States, maybe that number might rise. What goes on the brain with daydreaming and is it good for the brain?
There have been some interesting details about what the brain looks like while daydreaming, and there are interesting bits and pieces of information so far: daydreaming appears to change in frequency and in pattern of brain activation throughout the life cycle, and daydreaming when the mind is at rest activates areas that are different from conventional 'hard' calculating tasks or super verbal memory challenges. Interestingly, daydreaming shows a powerful activation of the medial temporal lobes, areas important for long-term and autobiographical memory. Other areas activated included strong visual and imagery areas where many sensory inputs mingle.
Look at all the areas that activate when the brain is free to daydream (Gabrieli's group, Stanford):
Maybe this is why many who are involved in creative disciplines need to forget about their problems (daydream, go out and play) in order to really solve them. When you daydream, you may be more likely to dredge up little tidbits of interest from your past that may be helpful for answering a question. If you can't find a solution quickly by conscious means, maybe it's important to let the subconscious have a try. Said Einstein: "I do my best thinking after playing the violin for a half hour."
Daydreaming and fMRI
Brain's 'resting' network
Daydreaming in Youth, Old Age, and Alzheimers