Dr Muireann Irish interviewed on ABC radio

Studies of dementia patients are suggesting our social skills rely on the same parts of our brain responsible for daydreaming, imagination and memory.

Cognitive neuroscientist Dr Muireann Irish, of Neuroscience Research Australia in Sydney, and colleagues, report their conclusions online in Nature Reviews Neurology.

Successful social interactions rely on a range of complex brain skills ranging from memory, which we need to learn appropriate behaviour, to imagination, which we need to put ourselves in other people’s shoes.

Irish says that in the past, studies of complex brain skills like these have tended to focus on isolated parts of the brain. For example memory studies have tended to focus on the hippocampus.

But, she says, there has been increasing evidence that such skills instead rely on a number of different brain structures working together.

When healthy people are left to think for themselves, MRIs show that a number of different parts of the brain light up at the same time.

This so-called “default network” enables us to daydream, reflect on our past, imagine the future and consider the viewpoints of others, says Irish.
Listen to her speak here on ABC radio about the daydreaming network here