Mind-wandering as spontaneous thought: A dynamic framework

Kalina Christoff, Zachary C. Irving, Kieran C.R. Fox, R. Nathan Spreng, Jessica R. Andrews-Hanna

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

550 Scopus citations


Most research on mind-wandering has characterized it as a mental state with contents that are task unrelated or stimulus independent. However, the dynamics of mind-wandering-how mental states change over time-have remained largely neglected. Here, we introduce a dynamic framework for understanding mind-wandering and its relationship to the recruitment of large-scale brain networks. We propose that mind-wandering is best understood as a member of a family of spontaneous-thought phenomena that also includes creative thought and dreaming. This dynamic framework can shed new light on mental disorders that are marked by alterations in spontaneous thought, including depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)718-731
Number of pages14
JournalNature Reviews Neuroscience
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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