Does the Mind Wander When the Brain Takes a Break? Local Sleep in Wakefulness, Attentional Lapses and Mind-Wandering

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Sleep has been classically described as an all-or-nothing global phenomenon. However, recent research strongly suggests that this view requires tempering. Invasive and non-invasive recordings in animals and humans show that neural activity typically associated with sleep can locally occur during wakefulness. Although local sleep is defined neuronally, it has been associated with impaired performance during cognitive tasks. Comparatively, the phenomenology of local sleep (i.e., what it feels like when your brain is partially asleep) has been less explored. Taking into account the literature on the neuronal and behavioral profile of local sleep intrusions in wakefulness, we propose that occurrences of local sleep could represent the neural mechanism underlying many attentional lapses. In particular, we argue that a unique physiological event such as local sleep could account for a diversity of behavioral outcomes from sluggish to impulsive responses. We further propose that local sleep intrusions could impact individuals’ subjective experience. Specifically, we propose that the timing and anatomical sources of local sleep intrusions could be responsible for both the behavioral consequences and subjective content of attentional lapses and may underlie the difference between subjective experiences such as mind wandering and mind blanking. Our framework aims to build a parallel between spontaneous experiences in sleep and wakefulness by integrating evidence across neuronal, behavioral and experiential levels. We use the example of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to illustrate how local sleep could explain complex cognitive profiles which include inattention, impulsivity, mind-wandering and mind-blanking.

Original languageEnglish
Article number949
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Volume13
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sep 2019

Keywords

  • performance
  • phenomenology
  • physiology
  • sleep
  • wakefulness

Cite this

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title = "Does the Mind Wander When the Brain Takes a Break? Local Sleep in Wakefulness, Attentional Lapses and Mind-Wandering",
abstract = "Sleep has been classically described as an all-or-nothing global phenomenon. However, recent research strongly suggests that this view requires tempering. Invasive and non-invasive recordings in animals and humans show that neural activity typically associated with sleep can locally occur during wakefulness. Although local sleep is defined neuronally, it has been associated with impaired performance during cognitive tasks. Comparatively, the phenomenology of local sleep (i.e., what it feels like when your brain is partially asleep) has been less explored. Taking into account the literature on the neuronal and behavioral profile of local sleep intrusions in wakefulness, we propose that occurrences of local sleep could represent the neural mechanism underlying many attentional lapses. In particular, we argue that a unique physiological event such as local sleep could account for a diversity of behavioral outcomes from sluggish to impulsive responses. We further propose that local sleep intrusions could impact individuals’ subjective experience. Specifically, we propose that the timing and anatomical sources of local sleep intrusions could be responsible for both the behavioral consequences and subjective content of attentional lapses and may underlie the difference between subjective experiences such as mind wandering and mind blanking. Our framework aims to build a parallel between spontaneous experiences in sleep and wakefulness by integrating evidence across neuronal, behavioral and experiential levels. We use the example of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to illustrate how local sleep could explain complex cognitive profiles which include inattention, impulsivity, mind-wandering and mind-blanking.",
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author = "Thomas Andrillon and Jennifer Windt and Silk, {Timothy J.} and Drummond, {Sean P. A.} and Bellgrove, {Mark A.} and Naotsugu Tsuchiya",
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AU - Windt, Jennifer

AU - Silk, Timothy J.

AU - Drummond, Sean P. A.

AU - Bellgrove, Mark A.

AU - Tsuchiya, Naotsugu

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N2 - Sleep has been classically described as an all-or-nothing global phenomenon. However, recent research strongly suggests that this view requires tempering. Invasive and non-invasive recordings in animals and humans show that neural activity typically associated with sleep can locally occur during wakefulness. Although local sleep is defined neuronally, it has been associated with impaired performance during cognitive tasks. Comparatively, the phenomenology of local sleep (i.e., what it feels like when your brain is partially asleep) has been less explored. Taking into account the literature on the neuronal and behavioral profile of local sleep intrusions in wakefulness, we propose that occurrences of local sleep could represent the neural mechanism underlying many attentional lapses. In particular, we argue that a unique physiological event such as local sleep could account for a diversity of behavioral outcomes from sluggish to impulsive responses. We further propose that local sleep intrusions could impact individuals’ subjective experience. Specifically, we propose that the timing and anatomical sources of local sleep intrusions could be responsible for both the behavioral consequences and subjective content of attentional lapses and may underlie the difference between subjective experiences such as mind wandering and mind blanking. Our framework aims to build a parallel between spontaneous experiences in sleep and wakefulness by integrating evidence across neuronal, behavioral and experiential levels. We use the example of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to illustrate how local sleep could explain complex cognitive profiles which include inattention, impulsivity, mind-wandering and mind-blanking.

AB - Sleep has been classically described as an all-or-nothing global phenomenon. However, recent research strongly suggests that this view requires tempering. Invasive and non-invasive recordings in animals and humans show that neural activity typically associated with sleep can locally occur during wakefulness. Although local sleep is defined neuronally, it has been associated with impaired performance during cognitive tasks. Comparatively, the phenomenology of local sleep (i.e., what it feels like when your brain is partially asleep) has been less explored. Taking into account the literature on the neuronal and behavioral profile of local sleep intrusions in wakefulness, we propose that occurrences of local sleep could represent the neural mechanism underlying many attentional lapses. In particular, we argue that a unique physiological event such as local sleep could account for a diversity of behavioral outcomes from sluggish to impulsive responses. We further propose that local sleep intrusions could impact individuals’ subjective experience. Specifically, we propose that the timing and anatomical sources of local sleep intrusions could be responsible for both the behavioral consequences and subjective content of attentional lapses and may underlie the difference between subjective experiences such as mind wandering and mind blanking. Our framework aims to build a parallel between spontaneous experiences in sleep and wakefulness by integrating evidence across neuronal, behavioral and experiential levels. We use the example of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to illustrate how local sleep could explain complex cognitive profiles which include inattention, impulsivity, mind-wandering and mind-blanking.

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