Hello, is that me you are looking for? A reexamination of the role of the DMN in social and self relevant aspects of off-task thought

Charlotte Murphy*, Giulia Poerio, Mladen Sormaz, Hao Ting Wang, Deniz Vatansever, Micah Allen, Daniel S. Margulies, Elizabeth Jefferies, Jonathan Smallwood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neural activity within the default mode network (DMN) is widely assumed to relate to processing during off-task states, however it remains unclear whether this association emerges from a shared role in self or social content that is common in these conditions. In the current study, we examine the possibility that the role of the DMN in ongoing thought emerges from contributions to specific features of off-task experience such as self-relevant or social content. A group of participants described their experiences while performing a laboratory task over a period of days. In a different session, neural activity was measured while participants performed Self/Other judgements (e.g., Does the word ‘Honest’ apply to you (Self condition) or Barack Obama (Other condition)). Despite the prominence of social and personal content in off-task reports, there was no association with neural activity during off-task trait adjective judgements. Instead, during both Self and Other judgements we found recruitment of caudal posterior cingulate cortex—a core DMN hub—was above baseline for individuals whose laboratory experiences were characterised as detailed. These data provide little support for a role of the DMN in self or other content in the off-task state and instead suggest a role in how on-going thought is represented.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0216182
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2019 Murphy et al.

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