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    Recruitment of lateral rostral prefrontal cortex in spontaneous and task-related thoughts

    Dumontheil, Iroise and Gilbert, S.J. and Frith, C.D. and Burgess, P.W. (2010) Recruitment of lateral rostral prefrontal cortex in spontaneous and task-related thoughts. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 63 (9), pp. 1740-1756. ISSN 1747-0218.

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    Behavioural and neuroimaging studies suggest that spontaneous and task-related thought processes share common cognitive mechanisms and neural bases. Lateral rostral prefrontal cortex (RPFC) is a brain region that has been implicated both in spontaneous thought and in high-level cognitive control processes, such as goal/subgoal integration and the manipulation of self-generated thoughts. We therefore propose that the recruitment of lateral RPFC may follow a U-shaped function of cognitive demand: relatively high in low-demand situations conducive to the emergence of spontaneous thought, and in high-demand situations depending on processes supported by this brain region. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate brain activity while healthy participants performed two tasks, each with three levels of cognitive demands, in a block design. The frequency of task-unrelated thoughts, measured by questionnaire, was highest in the low cognitive demand condition. Low and high cognitive demand conditions were each compared to the intermediate level. Lateral RPFC and superior parietal cortex were recruited in both comparisons, with additional activations specific to each contrast. These results suggest that RPFC is involved both when (a) task demands are low, and the mind wanders, and (b) the task requires goal/subgoal integration and manipulation of self-generated thoughts.


    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology in September 2010, available online at:
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Rostral prefrontal cortex, Cognitive control, Mind wandering, Functional magnetic resonance imaging, Task-unrelated thoughts
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Science > School of Psychological Sciences
    Research Centres and Institutes: Educational Neuroscience, Centre for, Brain and Cognitive Development, Centre for (CBCD)
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 01 May 2013 09:27
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:03


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