Representing Representation: Integration between the Temporal Lobe and the Posterior Cingulate Influences the Content and Form of Spontaneous Thought

Jonathan Smallwood, Theodoros Karapanagiotidis, Florence Ruby, Barbara Medea, Irene de Caso, Mahiko Konishi, Hao-Ting Wang, Glyn Hallam, Daniel S Margulies, Elizabeth Jefferies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When not engaged in the moment, we often spontaneously represent people, places and events that are not present in the environment. Although this capacity has been linked to the default mode network (DMN), it remains unclear how interactions between the nodes of this network give rise to particular mental experiences during spontaneous thought. One hypothesis is that the core of the DMN integrates information from medial and lateral temporal lobe memory systems, which represent different aspects of knowledge. Individual differences in the connectivity between temporal lobe regions and the default mode network core would then predict differences in the content and form of people's spontaneous thoughts. This study tested this hypothesis by examining the relationship between seed-based functional connectivity and the contents of spontaneous thought recorded in a laboratory study several days later. Variations in connectivity from both medial and lateral temporal lobe regions was associated with different patterns of spontaneous thought and these effects converged on an overlapping region in the posterior cingulate cortex. We propose that the posterior core of the DMN acts as a representational hub that integrates information represented in medial and lateral temporal lobe and this process is important in determining the content and form of spontaneous thought.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0152272
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2016

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