Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)
Average person has over 6,000 thoughts per day
Study isolates a 'thought worm' in the human brain showing when an idea begins and ends
The average person has more than 6,000 thoughts in a single day, according to a new study.
Researchers designed a new method that pinpoints the beginning and ending of a thought, allowing them to calculate how many we have per day.
This was done by isolating specific moments when an individual is focused on a single idea, which has been described as a 'thought worm.'
The team also notes that measuring a person's thought measures can predict aspects of their personality.
Dr. Jordan Poppenk, who is the Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience, said: ' What we call thought worms are adjacent points in a simplified representation of activity patterns in the brain.
'The brain occupies a different point in this 'state space' at every moment. '
'When a person moves onto a new thought, they create a new thought worm that we can detect with our methods.'
'We also noticed that thought worms emerge right as new events do when people are watching movies.
' Drilling into this helped us validate the idea that the appearance of a new thought worm corresponds to a thought transition.'
Poppenk and his team estimate that the average person has about 6,200 thoughts per day, which was determined while having subjects watch movies.
During each film, 184 participants watched three or four clips interspersed with 20 second rest periods as well as an 84 second validation clip repeated at the end of each run.
While subjects watched, the team performed functional magnetic resonance imaging on each volunteer - this method measures brain activity by looking at changes with blood flow.
The new method was focused on determining when people are thinking about certain things, instead of what they thinking about.
' Thought transitions have been elusive throughout the history of research on thought, which has often relied on volunteers describing their own thoughts, a method that can be notoriously unreliable,' Dr. Poppenk said.
' Being able to measure the onset of new thoughts gives us a way to peek into the ' black box' of the resting mind – to explore the timing and pace of thoughts when a person is just daydreaming about dinner and otherwise keeping to themselves.'