On the existence of a generalized non-specific task-dependent network

Research Area: Research Year: 2015
Type of Publication: Article Keywords: Extrinsic mode network, fMRI, cortical networks, connectivity, cognition, problem solving, default mode network
Authors: Hugdahl, Kenneth; Raichle, Marcus E.; Mitra, Anish; Specht, Karsten
In this paper we suggest the existence of a generalized task-related cortical network that is up-regulated whenever the task to be performed requires the allocation of generalized non-specific cognitive resources, independent of the specifics of the task to be performed. We have labeled this general purpose network, the extrinsic mode network (EMN) as complementary to the default mode network (DMN), such that the EMN is down-regulated during periods of task-absence, when the DMN is up-regulated, and vice versa. We conceptualize the EMN as a cortical network for extrinsic neuronal activity, similar to the DMN as being a cortical network for intrinsic neuronal activity. The EMN has essentially a fronto-temporo-parietal spatial distribution, including the inferior and middle frontal gyri, inferior parietal lobule, supplementary motor area, inferior temporal gyrus. We hypothesize that this network is always active regardless of the cognitive task being performed. We further suggest that failure of network up- and down-regulation dynamics may provide neuronal underpinnings for cognitive impairments seen in many mental disorders, such as, e.g., schizophrenia. We start by describing a common observation in functional imaging, the close overlap in fronto-parietal activations in healthy individuals to tasks that denote very different cognitive processes. We now suggest that this is because the brain utilizes the EMN network as a generalized response to tasks that exceeds a cognitive demand threshold and/or requires the processing of novel information. We further discuss how the EMN is related to the DMN, and how a network for extrinsic activity is related to a network for intrinsic activity. Finally, we discuss whether the EMN and DMN networks interact in a common single brain system, rather than being two separate and independent brain systems.
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