By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Humans are the only animal that thinks about, or even worries about, the future. But few scientists have looked at how we form vivid mental images of events that have not yet occurred.
The best effort has been by researchers at Washington University of St. Louis who had 21 young adults undergo an MRI which tracked ongoing activity in the brain.
People were told to think about past and future events while inside a functional MRI. What they found is a variety of brain areas are activated when subjects daydreamed about the future. The most important finding was neurologic memory. These centers became active whether participants were recalling the past or thinking about the future.
In order to form these vivid mental images of the future, what we’re doing is relying on our memories.