Characterizing the behavioral consequences and neural correlates of mind wandering

Our minds tend to continuously wander; this can be costly when task-focus is required for performance success. In addition, a wandering mind may be detrimental to psychological health when we ruminate or catastrophize. This line of research aims to understand how mind wandering may contribute to failures in sustained attention (e.g., Krimsky et al., 2017; Zanesco, Denkova, Witkin, & Jha, 2020), and the neural mechanisms supporting its links with attention through event-related potential studies (e.g., Denkova et al., 2018) and explorations of brain dynamics using fMRI and EEG microstate analyses (e.g., Denkova, Nomi, Uddin, & Jha, 2019; Zanesco, Denkova, & Jha, 2021a). In our current projects, we are investigating the tendency for mind wandering to occur more frequently with continued time-on-task in tasks requiring sustained attention (Zanesco, Denkova, & Jha, in revision) and brain electric microstate dynamics associated with the content and quality of spontaneous thought (e.g., Zanesco, Denkova, & Jha, 2021b).


Zanesco, A. P., Denkova, E., & Jha, A. P. (2021b). Associations between self-reported spontaneous thought and temporal sequences of EEG microstates. Brain and Cognition, 150, 105696.

Zanesco, A. P., Denkova, E., & Jha, A. P. (2021a). Self-reported mind wandering and response time variability differentiate pre-stimulus electroencephalogram microstate dynamics during a sustained attention task. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 33(1), 28-45.

Zanesco, A. P., Denkova, E., Witkin, J. E., & Jha, A. P. (2020). Experience sampling of the degree of mind wandering distinguishes hidden attentional states. Cognition. 205, 104380.

Denkova, E., Nomi, J. S., Uddin, L.Q., & Jha, A. P. (2019). Dynamic brain network configurations during rest and an attention task with frequent occurrence of mind wandering. Human Brain Mapping, 40(15), 4564-4576.

Denkova, E., Brudner, E. G., Zayan, K., Dunn, J., & Jha, A. P. (2018). Attenuated Face Processing during Mind Wandering. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 30(11), 1691-1703.

Krimsky, M., Llabre, M. M., Forster, D. E., & Jha, A. P. (2017). The influence of time-on-task on mind wandering and visual working memory. Cognition, 169, 84-90.

In Revision

Zanesco, A.P., Denkova, E., Jha, A.P., (in revision) The frequency of mind wandering increases over time during ongoing task performance. Psychological Bulletin