Spontaneous Thought as an Unconstrained Memory Process

Judith N. Mildner, Diana I. Tamir

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The stream of thought can flow freely, without much guidance from attention or cognitive control. What determines what we think about from one moment to the next? Spontaneous thought shares many commonalities with memory processes. We use insights from computational models of memory to explain how the stream of thought flows through the landscape of memory. In this framework of spontaneous thought, semantic memory scaffolds episodic memory to form the content of thought, and drifting context modulated by one's current state – both internal and external – constrains the area of memory to explore.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)763-777
Number of pages15
JournalTrends in Neurosciences
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


  • computational model
  • default network
  • memory
  • mind wandering
  • spontaneous thought


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