Escaping the here and now

Escaping the here and now: Evidence for a role of the default mode network in perceptually decoupled thought
NeuroImage, 2013, 69, 120-125.
Smallwood, J. et al.

Cognition that is not based on perception can lead to at least two different outcomes.
In some situations, cognition that is independent of perception can allow actions to be selected other than those prescribed by immediate perceptual input.
In others, cognition can be independent of perception and unrelated to the current behavioral goal allowing thoughts to develop that are largely independent of the actions involved in an external task.
The default mode network (DMN) has been implicated in both of these kinds of perceptually decoupled thought.
The current experiment used functional magnetic resonance imaging to explore whether a common region of this network was co-activated by both of these states.
Both the medial pre-frontal cortex and the posterior cingulate – two major hubs of the DMN – showed greater activity when (i) actions that did not depend upon immediate perceptual input were faster and
(ii) when actions based on perceptual input were slower.
Together these data suggest that the DMN is important in cognition that is independent from perceptual input regardless of whether such thoughts result in action, or, instead compete with the behavioral goals of the moment.


  • Absent-minded lapses;
  • Daydreaming;
  • Default mode network;
  • Medial prefrontal cortex;
  • Posterior cingulate;
  • Mind-wandering;
  • Response time;
  • Stimulus-independent thought

see also:
The silver lining of a mind in the clouds: Interesting musings are associated with positive mood while mind-wandering. 
Frontiers in Psychology, 2013, 4
Franklin, M. S., et al.

Neuroscience: Idle minds
Neuroscientists are trying to work out why the brain does so much when it seems to be doing nothing at all.
19 September 2012
the stream of consciousness

Harvard Business Review > Your Brain at Work

Your Brain at Work
Harvard Business Review. July-August, 2013

unlock the secrets of leadership and marketing from the brain.

thinking and behavior don’t map onto brain regions one-to-one.

networks of brain regions activate in concurrent patterns.

concepts crucial to managers, include:
• how to enable creative thinking
• how to structure rewards
• the role of emotion in decision making
• the opportunities and pitfalls of multitasking

Neuroscientists have discovered as many as 15 neural networks and subnetworks.
The four described below, along with their implications for knowledge work, are considered core and are the best understood.

The Default Network
Activates: When people are awake but not focused on external stimuli or any specific goal.
What it controls: Introspective thought and the ability to envision the past, the future, or alternative realities.
Crucial for understanding: Creative thinking and breakthrough innovation.

The Reward Network
Activates: In response to stimuli that induce enjoyment—such as food and water, money, and praise.
What it controls: Perceptions of pleasure and displeasure.
Crucial for understanding: Motivation and incentives.

The Affect Network
Activates: When people experience emotions.
What it controls: Autonomic and endocrine responses (alterations in blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature) that the brain interprets as feelings.
Crucial for understanding: Hunches and gut instincts, and the role that emotions play in decision making.

The Control Network
Activates: When people weigh long-term consequences, check their impulses, and selectively focus their attention.
What it controls: People’s ability to align their behavior with their goals.
Crucial for understanding: The benefits and risks of multitasking and how to set and manage priorities.