Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name





academic engagement, attention, functional near-infrared spectrometry, mind wandering, optical imaging


Miller, C.




Mind wandering may be detrimental to learning and memory. This is especially true for university students, who are often identified as at greater risk for distraction by readily available technology (e.g., laptops, cell phones, smart watches) in learning environments. As mind wandering is a complex construct, it is difficult to capture and quantify. Behavioural and subjective measures used in the past have been criticized for the lack of generalizability from research environments to other settings. The current study investigated mind wandering within the context of learning engagement in university students using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Mind wandering episodes were inferred from errors made during a measure of sustained attention (SART task) and a real-life analog task (video lecture) with follow-up comprehension questions. fNIRS was used to investigate patterns of brain activation during mind wandering and non-mind wandering episodes. The current study replicated previous findings that default mode network activation increases prior to errors in the SART task. There was no significant difference in brain activation for the video analog task. Finding an objective, reliable measure of mind wandering, particularly one that relates to real-life applications, has relevance for student learning and success. Results from this study may contribute to the development of interventions to reduce mind wandering in learning settings, particularly in large-format lecture classes where one-on-one interactions are less common