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Jul 16, 2020

Discovery of ‘thought worms’ opens window to the mind

Posted by in categories: entertainment, neuroscience

Queen’s University researchers uncover brain-based marker of new thoughts and discover we have more than 6,000 thoughts each day.

Researchers at Queen’s University have established a method that, for the first time, can detect indirectly when one thought ends and another begins. Dr. Jordan Poppenk (Psychology) and his master’s student, Julie Tseng, devised a way to isolate “thought worms,” consisting of consecutive moments when a person is focused on the same idea. This research was recently published in Nature Communications.

“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,” explains Dr. Poppenk, who is the Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience. “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.”

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