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Cereb Cortex. 2017 Aug 1;27(8):3930-3942. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhw206.

Inhibition of Information Flow to the Default Mode Network During Self-Reference Versus Reference to Others.

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Department of Behavioral Neurology, Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology, Magdeburg, Germany.
Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Campus Mitte, Charité - Universitätsmedizin, Berlin, Germany.
Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, Berlin, Germany.
Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany.
Department of Neurology, Otto von Guericke University, Magdeburg, Germany.
Center for Behavioral Brain Sciences, Magdeburg, Germany.


The default mode network (DMN), a network centered around the cortical midline, shows deactivation during most cognitive tasks and pronounced resting-state connectivity, but is actively engaged in self-reference and social cognition. It is, however, yet unclear how information reaches the DMN during social cognitive processing. Here, we addressed this question using dynamic causal modeling (DCM) of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data acquired during self-reference (SR) and reference to others (OR). Both conditions engaged the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG), most likely reflecting semantic processing. Within the DMN, self-reference preferentially elicited rostral anterior cingulate and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (rACC/vmPFC) activity, whereas OR engaged posterior cingulate and precuneus (PCC/PreCun). DCM revealed that the regulation of information flow to the DMN was primarily inhibitory. Most prominently, SR elicited inhibited information flow from the LIFG to the PCC/PreCun, while OR was associated with suppression of the connectivity from the LIFG to the rACC/vmPFC. These results suggest that task-related DMN activation is enabled by inhibitory down-regulation of task-irrelevant information flow when switching from rest to stimulus-specific processing.


default mode network; dynamic causal modeling; effective connectivity; self-reference; social cognition

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