SAN ANTONIO (Feb. 10, 2010) When we put an idea on the back burner, it goes into a processing area of the brain called the default-mode network. This network enables us to hold the low-priority idea in abeyance until a time when we aren't busy with something else.
"The default-mode network appears to be the brain's back burner for social decision making," said Peter T. Fox, M.D., director of the Research Imaging Institute at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. "Usually these back-burner ideas relate to interpersonal interactions and decisions that can't readily be quantified and shouldn't be rushed."
Dr. Fox likened this to putting a computer batch job into background processing to wait until the system is less busy.
Role of genetics
A recently released study from the Research Imaging Institute, the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research and other institutions offers evidence that genetics plays a role in this back-burner setup, which has been shown to be abnormal in a variety of psychiatric disorders.
The work was described in the Jan. 18-22 online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
The default-mode network is one of several neural networks that operate whether the mind is at rest or is occupied doing a task. A separate PNAS paper, published in 2009 by Dr. Fox and the same collaborators, presented a strong case that all human behaviors may be properly viewed as cooperative interactions among these networks, Dr. Fox said.
The newer research estimated the importance of genetic effects on the default-mode network by creating maps of eight anatomically distinct regions within the network. These maps were obtained by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies in 333 individuals from 29 randomly selected, extended-family pedigrees.
Network connectivity and gray-matter density were c
|Contact: Will Sansom|
University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio