A functional imaging study of the relationship between the Default Mode Network and other control networks in the human brain

  • Adele Maxwell

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The Default Mode Network (DMN) is a large-scale brain network implicated in the control and monitoring of internal modes of cognition. The aim of this research was to investigate DMN function and its relationship to other large-scale cognitive control networks through functional connectivity analysis and analysis of combined electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings. Data utilised across a series of three experiments were obtained from combined EEG-functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging recordings acquired during technical development of a new scanner in the Clinical Research Centre, Ninewells Hospital, Dundee. Analyses were based on data acquired from neurologically healthy participants while they rested with their eyes-closed for five minutes. Following this, participants completed a 14-minute auditory attention task, designed to engage the dorsal and ventral attention networks. In this task, participants responded to task-relevant stimuli (odd/even numbers) and attempted to inhibit their responses to task-irrelevant ‘oddballs’ (the number ‘0’) and task-irrelevant/distractor stimuli (environment sounds). Experiment 1 utilised the simultaneous acquired EEG-fMRI resting-state data in order to establish whether EEG frequency content in the beta range (13-30 Hz) was a significant predictor of DMN activity (regions of which were identified on an individual basis using functional connectivity analysis). Results were comparable to existing literature showing there is inconsistency in establishing a reliable electrophysiological signature of the DMN. Experiment 1 also employed region-of-interest (ROI)-to-ROI functional connectivity analysis as a method of exploring the functional relationship between the DMN and: (1) a task-positive resting-state network; (2) other commonly identified DMN regions; and (3) regions covering the whole of the cerebral cortex. Results revealed networks were correlated at a component-based level and challenged existing literature which appears to over-generalise results from exploration of network interaction. Findings also revealed activation of specific DMN components were coupled with down-regulation of sensory-associated cortical regions. Experiment 2 analysed the fMRI data that were obtained from the auditory attention task in order to: (1) determine whether DMN activity was observed when participants were engaged in an externally-directed task; and (2) explore changes in DMN activity associated with increasing task duration. Results revealed that activation of the DMN was prominent and did not vary over three equal time periods. This supports existing research showing the DMN is a continuously active system (whose activity is modulated based on external-task demands). Results also hinted at the existence of possible relationships between the DMN and components of several other large-scale control networks. Therefore, in Experiment 3 potential interactions were explored using ROI-to-ROI functional connectivity analysis of the whole 14-minute time series. Firstly, functional connectivity within the dorsal/ventral attention, executive/frontoparietal control and salience networks was analysed; secondly, the relationships between putative regions of these networks and the DMN were analysed. Overall, results revealed that networks were functionally connected with one another at a component-based level only. This suggests flexible interaction between several large-scale control networks allows neurologically healthy participants to allocate resources to the simultaneous monitoring of the internal and external worlds.
    Date of Award2013
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorDouglas Potter (Supervisor)


    • Brain
    • Default Network
    • Control Networks
    • Functional Imaging
    • fMRI
    • EEG

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