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As an average individual living a typical day, you ‘re most likely to have about 6,200 thoughts in a single day. This is according to new research by psychologists at Queen’s University in Canada who have invented a way to separate “thought worms,” specific patterns of thought that concentrate on the same idea throughout consecutive moments.

“What we call thought worms are adjacent points in a simplified representation of activity patterns in the brain. The brain occupies a different point in this ‘state space’ at every moment. When a person moves onto a new thought, they create a new thought worm that we can detect with our methods,” Dr Jordan Poppenk, study author and Assistant Professor at Queen’s Department of Psychology, said in a statement.

Thoughts are very vague feelings that flow and wander between various ideas against the background of mental “white noise,” so quantifying them has long been a struggle for researchers. Reported in Nature Communications, Dr. Poppenk, and Julie Tseng, a master’s student developed a way to classify unique “thought worms” through fMRI brain imaging and the use of new brain pattern models.

This allowed them to identify certain patterns of the brain, and to note when a change occurred between different thoughts.“We also noticed that thought worms emerge right as new events do when people are watching movies. Drilling into this helped us validate the idea that the appearance of a new thought worm corresponds to a thought transition,” Poppenk said.
Based on their initial study, they found that the average person has around 6,200 so-called thought worms over the course of a single day.

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