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This morning I've heard this talk on Ted.com:

Matt Killingsworth: Want to be happier? Stay in the moment

The presenter is discussing an iPhone app used to track happiness, and seems to draw a conclusion that "mind wandering" is a related to much unhappiness, and that mind wandering is pervasive in 47% of his respondents. He also suggests that "being in the present" is tied to feeling happier.

His methods and graphs aside, I'm interested in this question:

Is "mind wandering" a thought pattern that arises naturally as a cognitive process, regardless of the brain biology? Or is it a biological marker, indicating the change of state of the persons biological homeostatic state? By Biological homeostatic state I mean neurotransmitter levels/binding, endocrine system state, etc.

For example, if a person is intoxicated with alcohol, then the person cannot help, but feel different, because of the foreign substance. I'm interested if there's any research indicating if different mental states, for example mind wandering, are caused by something that changes within the brain?

Because mind wandering is a rather vague subject, here's another thought process that has a very definitive effect on happiness: suicidal ideation. If a person is thinking of suicide, there's at least a chance that the person will follow through with the ideation, and from the quotes below, it seems that at least some victims were studied

(Serotonin receptors on wikipedia):

Deceased suicidal and otherwise depressed patients have had more 5-HT2A receptors than normal patients. These findings suggest that post-synaptic 5-HT2A overdensity is involved in the pathogenesis of depression.[4]

And another one:

Many human polymorphisms have been identified influencing the expression of 5-HT2C. Significant correlations are suggested, specifically in relation to psychiatric disorders such as depression, OCD, and anxiety-related conditions. Polymorphisms also correlate with susceptibility to a number of conditions including drug abuse and obesity.

Reading this, it seems plausible that suicidal ideation, as a thought process, is at least partially related to the Serotonin(5HT) receptors 2A and 2C. As such, is it plausible to say that suicidal ideation is a biological marker of depression, just as mind wandering may be a biological marker of unhappiness?

Thank you for your input!

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"arises naturally as a cognitive process, completely independent of biology" - so you know, to my knowledge this is a pretty controversial statement: the generally accepted belief in neuroscience (again, to my knowledge) is that everything is based in biology/chemistry (bioelectrochemistry, to be precise). –  BenCole Nov 5 '12 at 20:32
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Also, you have two questions here - it may result in better/more answers if you were to split them into two questions: I'm interested if there's any research indicating if different mental states, for example mind wandering, are caused by something that changes within the brain? and As such, is it plausible to say that suicidal ideation is a biological marker of depression, just as mind wandering may be a biological marker of unhappiness? –  BenCole Nov 5 '12 at 20:36
    
Thank you, what I'm trying to express with "completely independent" is that the cognitive process alone may be responsible for the experience of mind wandering, and stuff like neurotransmitter levels do not play a significant role in the process. I've adjusted the wording of my question. As for the second example, I will think of how the two questions may be split –  Alex Stone Nov 5 '12 at 21:53
    
Still, I think the controversial statement is "cognitive process alone", depending on what you mean. Do you mean the processes in the brain responsible for cognition or cognitive processes as separate from the brain? The latter is the controversial statement. Even the former is somewhat of a difficult question. Cognition seems to be distributed across the brain. The processes (functional brain dynamics) themselves aren't all well documented yet; several frameworks are emerging, though. –  Keegan Keplinger Dec 30 '12 at 7:49
    
As @BenCole pointed out, there are at least two questions in here which could be split up. Since this question didn't attract any answers over a long period of time, I've closed the question until done so. I do feel they can be good questions on their own, but a possible reason nobody answered so far is the scope is too broad. –  Steven Jeuris Mar 31 '13 at 14:53
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closed as not a real question by Steven Jeuris Mar 31 '13 at 14:52

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.