By the same authors

From the same journal

A role for the ventromedial prefrontal cortex in self-generated episodic social cognition

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Publication details

DateAccepted/In press - 19 May 2020
DateE-pub ahead of print - 22 May 2020
DatePublished (current) - Sep 2020
Number of pages6
Early online date22/05/20
Original languageEnglish


The human mind is equally fluent in thoughts that involve self-generated mental content as it is with information in the immediate environment. Previous research has shown that neural systems linked to executive control (i.e. the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) are recruited when perceptual and self-generated thoughts are balanced in line with the demands imposed by the external world. Contemporary theories (Smallwood and Schooler, 2015) assume that differentiable processes are important for self-generated mental content than for its regulation. The current study used functional magnetic resonance imaging in combination with multidimensional experience sampling to address this possibility. We used a task with minimal demands to maximise our power at identifying correlates of self-generated states. Principal component analysis showed consistent patterns of self-generated thought when participants performed the task in either the lab or in the scanner (ICC ranged from 0.68 to 0.86). In a whole brain analyses we found that neural activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vMPFC) increases when participants are engaged in experiences which emphasise episodic and socio-cognitive features. Our study suggests that neural activity in the vMPFC is linked to patterns of ongoing thought, particularly those with episodic or social features.

Bibliographical note

©2020 The Author(s).

    Research areas

  • Memory, Ongoing thought, Ventromedial prefrontal cortex

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