" New research has shed light on the ways in which daydreaming is disrupted by dementia. "
Daydream believer: A luxury for people living with dementia?

The brain is never truly resting. However, new research has shed light on the ways in which daydreaming is disrupted by dementia.

The study, conducted by former Dementia Australia Research Foundation researchers Dr Claire O’Callaghan and Associate Professor Muireann Irish, intended to quantify the capacity for day dreaming in Alzheimer’s disease and behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD).[1] The second aim of the research was to characterise disease-related alterations across functional brain networks.

Daydreaming is defined as the natural tendency for our thoughts to drift off-task. Healthy people allow their brains to wander, and daydream half their waking lives.[2] The frequency with which we daydream suggests it is fundamental to the human experience.

Associate Professor Irish revealed that damage to key structures of the brain’s default network blocks the ability to daydream for people living with frontotemporal dementia.[3]

The results of the study suggest that under conditions of low cognitive demand, participants with Alzheimer’s disease achieved a form of daydreaming despite their structural and functional brain changes. However, compared to control subjects, participants with bvFTD displayed significantly reduced mind wandering capacity, suggesting that they have difficulty disengaging from the immediate environment and display a predominantly stimulus-bound style of thought.

The findings are significant as they reveal an area of cognitive dysfunction in people living with dementia that has received little attention in the past. This work is crucial to establish first insights into how damage to functional brain networks impacts internally-generated thought processes.

 Posted: April 15th, 2019
Discussion

Lyndal said:

This is very interesting. My mother is an the mid- advanced stages of BVFTD. Her life revolves around doing the exact same thing every day to the minute. She writes everything down for example 8am eat my breakfast. She has now deteriorated so far that her note writing is now scribble she can no longer tell the time or has any word association but in hindsight maybe she wrote notes because she lost the capacity to daydream and forward plan her day so she had to check her notes all the time? That’s for bringing BVFTD into light for an article.

Carol Smith said:

No surprises there! Having been with my Mum through 10yrs of Alzheimer's and working in aged care, it is clear they live in the moment with visits to the past. A statement such as "l will be back" can help settle an anxious person in the moment....adding when l will be back is of no use to them.

PETER N CORSER said:

Day dreaming may be affected but at least in the case of my wife,dreaming while sleeping is active. there seems to be a carry over of those dreams that shows memory, as she has quite advanced Alzhiemers but often will, on waking talk as though she is still in a particular dream.

Robyn Rex said:

I found this article very thought provoking. When my mind wanders off task (day dreaming) I continually bring it back to the task and 'be in the moment'. Often we are advised in yoga practice and our daily lives to 'enjoy the moment' or 'become aware of your breath' and 'focus on the now' - and not to wander off and daydream. The approach of this study to "disengage from the immediate environment" and thus to 'daydream' is throwing me a new challenge.....and I'm not sure how to approach it?

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