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Poster E130

Increased brain signal complexity associated with mind-wandering inhibits performance gains following perceptual task training

Poster Session E - Monday, April 15, 2024, 2:30 – 4:30 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC
Also presenting in Data Blitz Session 4 - Saturday, April 13, 2024, 1:00 – 2:30 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall EF.

Louisa Krile1 (, Ford Burles1, Kuljeet Chohan1, Maddie Kelly1, Julia W. Y. Kam1, Andrea B. Protzner1; 1University of Calgary

Mind-wandering, or attentional shifts from the current task to unrelated thoughts, consumes up to 50% of our waking hours and impacts neural and behavioural function. Mind-wandering is typically associated with decreased performance on perceptual and cognitive tasks but may facilitate performance on tasks that require creative problem-solving. Until now, research has focused on the impact of mind-wandering on immediate task performance, but the impact on learning-related gains over time remains unclear. Previous research examining brain signal complexity during task performance showed that periods of mind-wandering are associated with higher signal complexity compared with focused states, reflecting increased global neural flexibility. In this study, we investigated how the amount of mind-wandering during task performance influences learning and whether higher signal complexity during mind-wandering may represent a flexible neural state conducive to learning. Nineteen healthy adults underwent electroencephalography (EEG) recording while performing a visual texture discrimination task before and after a training period, with their attention state probed throughout the experiment. Task performance significantly improved (p < .001) and the amount of mind-wandering during task performance significantly increased (p = .011) following training. Greater pre-training mind-wandering was associated with increased signal complexity across all timescales, but this corresponded with lower performance gains following training (p = .001). Further, there were no significant associations between post-training mind-wandering, signal complexity, and changes in task proficiency. These results suggest that a high-flexibility brain state associated with mind-wandering may hinder learning in low-level perceptual tasks that demand narrow attention to basic visual stimuli for optimal performance.

Topic Area: PERCEPTION & ACTION: Vision


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April 13–16  |  2024