Cornell University researchers just reversed the idea nostalgia doesn’t activate the parts of your brain responsible for better mental performance; it 100 percent does.

"The prevailing view is that activating brain regions referred to as the default network impairs performance on attention-demanding tasks because this network is associated with behaviors such as mind-wandering," Nathan Spreng, lead study author, said in a press release. "Our study is the first to demonstrate the opposite — that engaging the default network can also improve performance." To arrive at this conclusion, Spreng and his team recruited 36 young adults to undergo a brain scan.

While being scanned, researchers asked participants to take a look at sets of famous and anonymous faces in a specific order. As they were going through the photos, researchers also asked participants to identify — or reminisce — whether the current faced matched the face in two previous photos. Participants answered both faster and more accurate when matching famous faces compared to anonymous faces, all the while experiencing spikes in their default network.

This goes to show that accessing long-term memory (famous faces) does work to strengthen short-term memory performance. "Outside the laboratory, pursuing goals involves processing information filled with personal meaning — knowledge about past experiences, motivations, future plans, and social context," Spreng said. "Our study suggests that the default network and executive control networks dynamically interact to facilitate an ongoing dialogue between the pursuit of external goals and internal meaning."

It's easy to see why mind-wandering was believed to negatively impact mental peformance. I mean, there's actual evidence. A study published in the Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology found mind-wandering hinders reading comprehension and performance on working memory- and intelligence-related tests. Interestingly enough, this same study found mind-wandering also played a crucial role when it came to creative problem solving.

In additional to a better brain, trips down memory lane (however long ago the memory took place) help us feel physically warmer, which makes us feel more optimistic about the future. Remembering the past can lead to more charity donations and overall volunteers, according to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

In general, though, nostalgia doesn’t even scrape the surface of sweet hacks for a stronger mental performance. Coffee naps, for example, are the premise that if you take a 20-minute nap after consuming a cup of coffee, you’ll maximize caffeine and alertness. Hatha yoga boosts brain function among older adult’s more than exercise, while eating dark chocolate, fish, eggs, tomatoes, and pasta, can level up intelligence, alertness, and focus — respectively.

Source: Spreng N, DuPre E, Selarka D, Garcia J, Gojkovic S, et al. "Goal-congruent default network activity facilitates cognitive control.” Journal of Neuroscience, 2014.