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Neuroimage. 2011 Mar 1;55(1):225-32. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.11.048. Epub 2010 Nov 25.

Associations and dissociations between default and self-reference networks in the human brain.

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, and Poitras Center for Affective Disorders Research, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA


Neuroimaging has revealed consistent activations in medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) and posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) extending to precuneus both during explicit self-reference tasks and during rest, a period during which some form of self-reference is assumed to occur in the default mode of brain function. The similarity between these two patterns of midline cortical activation may reflect a common neural system for explicit and default-mode self-reference, but there is little direct evidence about the similarities and differences between the neural systems that mediate explicit self-reference versus default-mode self-reference during rest. In two experiments, we compared directly the brain regions activated by explicit self-reference during judgments about trait adjectives and by rest conditions relative to a semantic task without self-reference. Explicit self-reference preferentially engaged dorsal MPFC, rest preferentially engaged precuneus, and both self-reference and rest commonly engaged ventral MPFC and PCC. These findings indicate that there are both associations (shared components) and dissociations between the neural systems underlying explicit self-reference and the default mode of brain function.

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