From OptimalScience

Overview of meta-awareness, perceptual decoupling and the wandering mind. Jonathan W. Schooler, Jonathan Smallwood, Kalina Christoff, Todd C. Handy, Erik D. Reichle, Michael A. Sayette, Meta-awareness, perceptual decoupling and the wandering mind, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 15, Issue 7, 2011, Pages 319-326, ISSN 1364-6613, ( Abstract: Mind wandering (i.e. engaging in cognitions unrelated to the current demands of the external environment) reflects the cyclic activity of two core processes: the capacity to disengage attention from perception (known as perceptual decoupling) and the ability to take explicit note of the current contents of consciousness (known as meta-awareness). Research on perceptual decoupling demonstrates that mental events that arise without any external precedent (known as stimulus independent thoughts) often interfere with the online processing of sensory information. Findings regarding meta-awareness reveal that the mind is only intermittently aware of engaging in mind wandering. These basic aspects of mind wandering are considered with respect to the activity of the default network, the role of executive processes, the contributions of meta-awareness and the functionality of mind wandering.

Mind-wandering and drowsiness occur together. These researchers were able to find that changes in ocular parameters, such as increased blink frequency and increased blink duration, are signs of drowsiness, not internal distractions, interruptions, or perceptual decoupling. These parameters are controlled by the locus coeruleus, which is the origin of noradrenaline in the brain. Low demand tasks deactivate the locus coeruleus, leading to increased eye blinks, etc. Challenge in the task is what wakes you up! David Stawarczyk, Clémentine François, Jérôme Wertz, Arnaud D'Argembeau, Drowsiness or mind-wandering? Fluctuations in ocular parameters during attentional lapses, Biological Psychology, Volume 156, 2020, 107950, ISSN 0301-0511, ( Abstract: Two independent lines of evidence suggest that drowsiness and mind-wandering share common neurocognitive processes indexed by ocular parameters (e.g., eyeblink frequency and pupil dynamics). Mind-wandering and drowsiness frequently co-occur, however, such that it remains unclear whether observed oculometric variations are related to mind-wandering, drowsiness, or a mix of both. To address this issue, we assessed fluctuations in mind-wandering and sleepiness during a sustained attention task while ocular parameters were recorded. Results showed that oculometric variations during mind-wandering were fully explained by increased sleepiness. However, mind-wandering and sleepiness had additive deleterious effects on performance that were not fully explained by ocular parameters. These findings suggest that oculometric variations during task performance reflect increased drowsiness rather than processes specifically involved in mind-wandering, and that the neurocognitive processes indexed by oculometric parameters (e.g., regulatory processes of the locus coeruleus norepinephrine system) do not fully explain how mind-wandering and sleepiness cause attentional lapses. Keywords: Mind-wandering; Pupillometry; Eyeblinks; Drowsiness; Attentional lapses