It really IS possible for your mind to go completely blank! MRIs reveal how our brains enter a sleep state when we switch off
- Scientists looked at the brains of 36 participants while they were in an MRI machine.
- People found that they cared about blanking out five to seven percent of the time.
- The scans showed how their brains entered a sleep state while they were offline.
If you are talking to your other half and they suddenly stare into space, try not to be offended.
Sometimes people’s minds naturally go blank, according to a study, and their brain seems to automatically turn off their thoughts.
The researchers observed 36 people who were placed in an MRI machine and asked to describe their thoughts.
People found that their minds went blank five to seven percent of the time.
Scan results showed that their brain entered a near-sleep state, with constant activity in all regions, rather than variable activity in different areas of the brain linked to thinking.
Researchers now suspect there’s a good evolutionary reason for switching off when concentrating would be better: to keep our brains from getting too tired.
If you are talking to your other half and they suddenly stare into space, try not to be offended. Sometimes people’s minds naturally go blank, a study finds, and their brain seems to automatically turn off their thoughts (stock image)
Scan results showed that their brain entered a near-sleep state during a mind blank (MB), with constant activity in all regions, rather than variable activity in different areas of the brain related to thinking.
Forgetting is a way of learning, says study
Rather than our memories deteriorating over time, forgetting is actually an active form of learning that helps our brain access more important information.
This is the conclusion of experts from Trinity College Dublin and the University of Toronto, who said that ‘lost’ memories aren’t really gone, they’ve just become inaccessible.
Memories, they explained, are permanently stored in sets of neurons, and our brains decide which ones we keep access to and which ones are blocked out.
These options, they said, are based on environmental feedback, which theoretically allows us flexibility in the face of change and, as a result, better decision-making.
If correct, the findings could lead to new ways of understanding and treating memory loss associated with the disease, as seen, for example, in Alzheimer’s patients.
Dr Athena Demertzi, lead author of the study from the University of Liege in Belgium, said: “Ours is the first study to find that people’s minds go blank naturally, and that this is caused by a specific activity in the brain.
“People who draw a blank are often judged for not listening properly or being lazy, but people really can’t help it, and now we think that’s a good thing.
“Having too many thoughts can leave brain cells exhausted, so this may be a way to conserve energy.”
The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at people who were given regular prompts to report their thoughts while in an MRI machine.
About every minute, after hearing a beep, they chose from four options on a screen to describe their thoughts.
Most of the time, people thought about their own environment, such as the sound of the MRI machine, the experiment, how long it would take, or something else, such as what they were planning for dinner.
But people sometimes also chose the option to show that their mind had gone blank, meaning that they couldn’t remember what they had thought, or that their brain felt empty of thoughts.
When this happened, the researchers saw a universal pattern of brain activity in around 100 separate brain regions.
The constant flow of signals between brain cells, with one signal not being amplified much more than another, is similar to what is seen when people are fast asleep.
The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at people who were given regular prompts to report their thoughts while in an MRI machine (file image)
Brain scan results suggest that when people’s minds go blank, it could be because they literally have no thoughts, or because they can’t access or remember their thoughts.
More research is needed to determine exactly what is going on (SUBS – please keep).
Dr. Demertzi said: “We know from previous studies that people daydream and their minds wander about half the time.”
But mind blank is different, and it’s probably good for you.
“I certainly don’t worry as much when I fall asleep in a meeting anymore, as the brain seems to have a good reason for this.”
EXPLAINED: MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING USES MAGNETIC FIELDS TO SEE INSIDE THE BODY
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a type of scan that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body.
An MRI scanner is a large tube that contains powerful magnets. You lie down inside the tube during the scan.
An MRI can be used to examine almost any part of the body, including the brain and spinal cord, bones and joints, breasts, heart, blood vessels, and internal organs such as the liver, womb, or cervix. prostate.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a type of scan that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body. An MRI scanner is a large tube that contains powerful magnets. You lie down inside the tube during the scan.
The results of an MRI can be used to help diagnose conditions, plan treatments, and assess how effective previous treatment has been.
Most of the human body is made up of water molecules, which consist of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. At the center of each hydrogen atom is an even smaller particle, called a proton. Protons are like little magnets and are very sensitive to magnetic fields.
When you lie under the scanner’s powerful magnets, the protons in your body line up in the same direction, the way a magnet can pull on a compass needle.
Short bursts of radio waves are then sent to certain areas of the body, causing the protons to become misaligned. When the radio waves go out, the protons realign. This sends out radio signals, which are picked up by receivers.
These signals provide information about the exact location of the protons in the body. They also help distinguish between different types of tissue in the body, because protons in different types of tissue realign at different rates and produce different signals.
In the same way that millions of pixels on a computer screen can create complex images, the signals from the millions of protons in the body combine to create a detailed image of the inside of the body.