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J Neurosci. 2011 Mar 23;31(12):4407-20. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3335-10.2011.

Episodic memory retrieval, parietal cortex, and the default mode network: functional and topographic analyses.

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Department of Neurology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


The default mode network (DMN) is often considered a functionally homogeneous system that is broadly associated with internally directed cognition (e.g., episodic memory, theory of mind, self-evaluation). However, few studies have examined how this network interacts with other networks during putative "default" processes such as episodic memory retrieval. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we investigated the topography and response profile of human parietal regions inside and outside the DMN, independently defined using task-evoked deactivations and resting-state functional connectivity, during episodic memory retrieval. Memory retrieval activated posterior nodes of the DMN, particularly the angular gyrus, but also more anterior and dorsal parietal regions that were anatomically separate from the DMN. The two sets of parietal regions showed different resting-state functional connectivity and response profiles. During memory retrieval, responses in DMN regions peaked sooner than non-DMN regions, which in turn showed responses that were sustained until a final memory judgment was reached. Moreover, a parahippocampal region that showed strong resting-state connectivity with parietal DMN regions also exhibited a pattern of task-evoked activity similar to that exhibited by DMN regions. These results suggest that DMN parietal regions directly supported memory retrieval, whereas non-DMN parietal regions were more involved in postretrieval processes such as memory-based decision making. Finally, a robust functional dissociation within the DMN was observed. Whereas angular gyrus and posterior cingulate/precuneus were significantly activated during memory retrieval, an anterior DMN node in medial prefrontal cortex was strongly deactivated. This latter finding demonstrates functional heterogeneity rather than homogeneity within the DMN during episodic memory retrieval.

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