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Neuroimage. 2010 Feb 1;49(3):2638-48. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.11.008. Epub 2009 Nov 12.

When less is more: TPJ and default network deactivation during encoding predicts working memory performance.

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Department of Psychology, Campus Box 1125, Washington University, Saint Louis, MO 63130, USA.


Previous work has shown that temporo-parietal junction (TPJ), part of a ventral attention network for stimulus-driven reorienting, deactivates during effortful cognitive engagement, along with the default mode network (DMN). TPJ deactivation has been reported both during working memory (WM) and rapid visual search, ostensibly to prevent reorienting to irrelevant objects. We tested whether the magnitude of this deactivation during WM encoding is predictive of subsequent WM performance. Using slow event-related fMRI and a delayed WM task in which distracter stimuli were presented during the maintenance phase, we found that greater TPJ and DMN deactivation during the encoding phase predicted better WM performance. TPJ and DMN, however, also showed several functional dissociations: (1) TPJ exhibited a different task-evoked pattern than DMN, responding to distracters sharing task-relevant features, but not to other types of distracters; and (2) TPJ showed strong functional connectivity with the DMN at encoding but not during distracter presentation. These results provide further evidence for the functional importance of TPJ suppression and indicate that TPJ and DMN deactivation is especially critical during WM trace formation. In addition, the functional connectivity results suggest that TPJ, while not part of the DMN during the resting state, may flexibly "couple" with this network depending on task demands.

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