Thursday, September 15, 2005

On Task or Off Task, Which Thinker are You?

More interesting pictures showing how our brains seem to work. With color coding, researchers at Washington University St. Louis found that large areas of brain appear to become activated or inactivated depending on whether people are actively working on a cognitive task.

The on-task areas are regions that you might expect - brains areas that are important for directed attention and working memory for different types of information. But the off-task areas are interesting too. When you're off-task, your brain doesn't just turn off. The cold colored regions become activated, while the warm colored regions turn down.

The 'cold'-colored area associated with more self-referential, emotional, and autobiographical thinking. They become more active with intrusive task-independent thoughts, free associations, and daydreaming.

All of us probably have this Yin-Yang relationship between these two widely distributed neural networks - but some of us spend more time with one color group than the other. The implications for different teaching approaches would seem pretty clear.

Task-Focused Attention, Rest, and fMRI
MPF, Self-Referential Activity, and fMRI

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