The default mode network and recurrent depression: a neurobiological model of cognitive risk factors

Neuropsychol Rev. 2012 Sep;22(3):229-51. doi: 10.1007/s11065-012-9199-9. Epub 2012 May 9.


A neurobiological account of cognitive vulnerability for recurrent depression is presented based on recent developments of resting state neural networks. We propose that alterations in the interplay between task positive (TP) and task negative (TN) elements of the Default Mode Network (DMN) act as a neurobiological risk factor for recurrent depression mediated by cognitive mechanisms. In the framework, depression is characterized by an imbalance between TN-TP components leading to an overpowering of TP by TN activity. The TN-TP imbalance is associated with a dysfunctional internally-focused cognitive style as well as a failure to attenuate TN activity in the transition from rest to task. Thus we propose the TN-TP imbalance as overarching neural mechanism involved in crucial cognitive risk factors for recurrent depression, namely rumination, impaired attentional control, and cognitive reactivity. During remission the TN-TP imbalance persists predisposing to vulnerability of recurrent depression. Empirical data to support this model is reviewed. Finally, we specify how this framework can guide future research efforts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cognition Disorders / complications
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Cognition*
  • Depressive Disorder / complications
  • Depressive Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Functional Neuroimaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Models, Psychological
  • Neural Pathways
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors