Rumination and the default mode network: Meta-analysis of brain imaging studies and implications for depression

Neuroimage. 2020 Feb 1:206:116287. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.116287. Epub 2019 Oct 23.


Rumination is strongly and consistently correlated with depression. Although multiple studies have explored the neural correlates of rumination, findings have been inconsistent and the mechanisms underlying rumination remain elusive. Functional brain imaging studies have identified areas in the default mode network (DMN) that appear to be critically involved in ruminative processes. However, a meta-analysis to synthesize the findings of brain regions underlying rumination is currently lacking. Here, we conducted a meta-analysis consisting of experimental tasks that investigate rumination by using Signed Differential Mapping of 14 fMRI studies comprising 286 healthy participants. Furthermore, rather than treat the DMN as a unitary network, we examined the contribution of three DMN subsystems to rumination. Results confirm the suspected association between rumination and DMN activation, specifically implicating the DMN core regions and the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex subsystem. Based on these findings, we suggest a hypothesis of how DMN regions support rumination and present the implications of this model for treating major depressive disorder characterized by rumination.

Keywords: Core regions; Default mode network; Depression; Dorsal medial prefrontal cortex subsystem; Rumination.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping*
  • Depression / diagnostic imaging
  • Depression / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net / diagnostic imaging
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Rumination, Cognitive / physiology*