What We Talk About When We Talk About the Default Mode Network

Front Hum Neurosci. 2014 Aug 25;8:619. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00619. eCollection 2014.

Abstract

The default mode network (DMN) has been widely defined as a set of brain regions that are engaged when people are in a "resting state" (left to themselves in a scanner, with no explicit task instruction). The network emerged as a scientific object in the early twenty-first century, and in just over a decade has become the focus of intense empirical and conceptual neuroscientific inquiry. In this Perspective, we contribute to the work of critical neuroscience by providing brief reflections on the birth, working life, and future of the DMN. We consider: how the DMN emerged through the convergence of distinct lines of scientific investigation; controversies surrounding the definition, function and localization of the DMN; and the lines of interdisciplinary investigation that the DMN has helped to enable. We conclude by arguing that one of the most pressing issues in the field in 2014 is to understand how the mechanisms of thought are related to the function of brain dynamics. While the DMN has been central in allowing the field to reach this point, it is not inevitable that the DMN itself will remain at the heart of future investigations of this complex problem.

Keywords: fMRI; functional connectivity; history of cognitive neuroscience; mind wandering; neuroanatomy; resting state.