A series of studies published in recent years suggests that in people with depression, autism, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder, the default mode network, that curious pattern of brain activity that ramps up when we daydream, works differently than it does in healthy control subjects.
And in each condition, the malfunctions look slightly different, holding out the prospect of better psychiatric diagnoses down the line.
In the case of schizophrenia, researchers from Harvard University and MIT found that the default mode network is overactive and faultily wired. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2009, they surmised that the ability of schizophrenics to focus on and respond to external realities was being overwhelmed by their inner stream of consciousness.
Read more: Brain's default mode network may hold key to better psychiatric diagnoses