Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The default mode network (DMN) was first recognized as a set of brain regions demonstrating consistently greater activity during rest than during a multitude of tasks. Originally, this network was believed to interfere with goal-directed behavior based on its decreased activity during many such tasks. More recently, however, the role of the DMN during goal-directed behavior was established for internally oriented tasks, in which the DMN demonstrated increased activity. However, the well-documented hub position and information-bridging potential of midline DMN regions indicate that there is more to uncover regarding its functional contributions to goal-directed tasks, which may be based on its functional interactions rather than its level of activation. An investigation of task-related changes in DMN functional connectivity during a series of both internal and external tasks would provide the requisite investigation for examining the role of the DMN during goal-directed task performance. In this study, 20 participants underwent fMRI while performing six tasks spanning diverse internal and external domains in addition to a resting-state scan. We hypothesized that the DMN would demonstrate “task-positive” (i.e., positively contributing to task performance) changes in functional connectivity relative to rest regardless of the direction of task-related changes in activity. Indeed, our results demonstrate significant increases in DMN connectivity with task-promoting regions (e.g., anterior insula, inferior frontal gyrus, middle frontal gyrus) across all six tasks. Furthermore, canonical correlation analyses indicated that the observed task-related connectivity changes were significantly associated with individual differences in task performance. Our results indicate that the DMN may not only support a “default” mode but may play a greater role in both internal and external tasks through flexible coupling with task-relevant brain regions.