Mind-Wandering Experiences in Ageing: Neurocognitive Processes and Other Influencing Factors

Martinon, Léa M. (2018) Mind-Wandering Experiences in Ageing: Neurocognitive Processes and Other Influencing Factors. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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The ability to self-generate thoughts in imagination is a central aspect of the human experience. Mind-wandering episodes are multifaceted and are heterogeneous in terms of their content, form (e.g. modality, level of detail), and behavioural outcomes. Older adults’ neurocognitive profile shows impairments in functions highly linked to the generation and management of such episodes, namely episodic memory, attentional control, and abilities associated with the recruitment of the default mode network (DMN). Robust findings have documented a decrease in the frequency of mind-wandering with increasing age. However, age-related changes in thought content, and how this is related to the cerebral organisation of the brain, has largely been neglected. This PhD project aimed to: (i) investigate older adults’ neurocognitive profile alongside the complexities of mind-wandering, and importantly (ii) explore the impact of moderating factors on thought content as we grow older. Converging behavioural and neuroimaging methods were employed to provide a comprehensive account of self-generated thoughts. The first two chapters combined self-reports with electrophysiological and fMRI connectivity data, and demonstrated associations between changes in the recruitment of the DMN and age-related changes in self-generated thoughts. Subsequent experimental chapters considered the influence of key factors believed to impact on the content of thoughts. Examining the influence of culture revealed that native French speakers favoured self-reflection and engaged in more positively oriented thoughts, in comparison to English native speakers. In addition, the manipulation of task difficulty encouraged verbal rehearsal, and meta-awareness mainly targeted the temporal characteristics of thoughts. Finally, after a 4-week meditation intervention, there was a reduction in both negative and past-oriented thoughts. Throughout, behavioural measures demonstrated older adults’ bias toward deliberate on-task thoughts, with evidence of a decrease of negatively oriented thoughts, stable rates of positively oriented thoughts, and an increase of visual thoughts, and task-related interference. Overall, the systematic use of convergent behavioural and neuroimaging methodology has provided a more in-depth understanding of mind-wandering experiences in ageing where previously the frequency of these episodes has only been considered.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Self-generated thought, Thought content, Neuroimaging tools, EEG and functional connectivity MRI, Meta-awareness and Mindfulness intervention, French and British differences in mind-wandering experiences
Subjects: C800 Psychology
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Psychology
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Paul Burns
Date Deposited: 21 Jun 2019 16:40
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 22:33
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/39791

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