Mind-Wandering Tends to Occur under Low Perceptual Demands
Fluctuations in attention behind the wheel poses a significant risk for driver safety. During transient periods of inattention, drivers may shift their attention towards internally-directed thoughts or feelings at the expense of staying focused on the road. This study examined whether increasing task difficulty by manipulating involved sensory modalities as the driver detected the lane-departure in a simulated driving task would promote a shift of brain activity between different modes of processing, reflected by brain network dynamics on electroencephalographic sources. Results showed that depriving the driver of salient sensory information imposes a relatively more perceptually-demanding task, leading to a stronger activation in the task-positive network. When the vehicle motion feedback is available, the drivers may rely on vehicle motion to perceive the perturbations, which frees attentional capacity and tends to activate the default mode network. Such brain network dynamics could have major implications for understanding fluctuations in driver attention and designing advance driver assistance systems.