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Neuroimage. 2007 Oct 1;37(4):1073-82. Epub 2007 Jul 3.

Does the brain have a baseline? Why we should be resisting a rest.

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Brain Mapping Unit, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, UK.


In the last few years, the notion that the brain has a default or intrinsic mode of functioning has received increasing attention. The idea derives from observations that a consistent network of brain regions shows high levels of activity when no explicit task is performed and participants are asked simply to rest. The importance of this putative "default mode" is asserted on the basis of the substantial energy demand associated with such a resting state and of the suggestion that rest entails a finely tuned balance between metabolic demand and regionally regulated blood supply. These observations, together with the fact that the default network is more active at rest than it is in a range of explicit tasks, have led some to suggest that it reflects an absolute baseline, one that must be understood and used if we are to develop a comprehensive picture of brain functioning. Here, we examine the assumptions that are generally made in accepting the importance of the "default mode". We question the value, and indeed the interpretability, of the study of the resting state and suggest that observations made under resting conditions have no privileged status as a fundamental metric of brain functioning. In doing so, we challenge the utility of studies of the resting state in a number of important domains of research.

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