Researchers at the University of Liège (Belgium) explored the benefits of the phenomenology of “mind blanking”. The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers analyzed a dataset in which healthy participants reported their mental state before hearing an auditory probe (beep) while resting in the MRI scanner. Factors like perceptions of the environment, attention lapse, stimulus-dependent and –independent thoughts, mind blanks, etc. were examined.
The results revealed that during spontaneous thinking, human beings tend to experience mind-blanking episodes. In this “blank mind” state, we are being absent while awake as we are deprived of mental content or consciously perceiving thoughts.
This state stems from the brain’s inability to differentiate signals in an informative way during mind blanking. While it is not a serious disorder, mind-blanking challenges can be experienced during precarious situations that involve activities like driving or fight-or-flight responses.
One of the lead researchers, Dr. Demertzi Athena, elaborated: “Mind blanking is a relatively new mental state within the study of spontaneous cognition. It opens exciting avenues about the underlying biological mechanisms that happen during waking life. It might be that the boundaries of sleep and wakefulness might not be that discrete as they appear to be after all.”
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Mortaheb, S., Van Calster, L., Raimondo, F., Klados, M. A., Boulakis, P. A., Georgoula, K., Majerus, S., Van De Ville, D., & Demertzi, A. (2022). Mind blanking is a distinct mental state linked to a recurrent brain profile of globally positive connectivity during ongoing mentation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 119(41), e2200511119. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2200511119