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Can your mind wander if you have damaged hippocampi?

27 March 2018

The hippocampus is a structure found on both sides of the brain in the temporal lobes, near the ears. It plays an important role in memory and thinking about the past and future.

This led a team of researchers, led by Cornelia McCormick at the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging, to wonder if people with damage to both hippocampi are still capable of mind-wandering – after all, when we mind wander or day-dream, a lot of the time it is about things we’ve done or plan to do.

And if these patients can mind wander, will the content of their mind-wandering thoughts be different from healthy controls?

For their new paper in the Journal of Neuroscience, the researchers shadowed 6 male patients with bilateral hippocampus damage for two days during daylight hours, occasionally prompting them to report what they were thinking about, and compared their descriptions with those obtained from 12 age-matched healthy controls over the same period.

The patients with hippocampus damage mind-wandered just as much as the controls, but the form and content of their mind-wandering was very different.

Read more in a post by Christian Jarrett on our Research Digest blog.

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