News Release

The brain networks underlying imagination

One subnetwork constructs imagined scenarios, while the other evaluates them

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Society for Neuroscience

The Brain Networks Underlying Imagination

image: Whole-brain analysis of vividness and valence. Top panel shows the main effect of valence and vividness as well as their difference contrasts for the entire 12 second imagination period. The bottom two panels show the four effects for the early (first 4 s) and middle (middle 4 s) parts of the imagination period. There were no significant effects for the late (last 4 s) part of the imagination period. view more 

Credit: Lee et al., JNeurosci 2021

Two components of imagination -- constructing and evaluating imagined scenarios -- rely on separate subnetworks in the default mode network, according to research recently published in JNeurosci.

Even when you aren't doing anything, your brain is hard at work. The default mode network (DMN) activates during the brain's resting state and has been linked to daydreaming, planning, and imagining the future. In previous studies, scientists noticed the DMN could be divided into two subnetworks, ventral and dorsal, but their different roles were debated.

Lee et al. used fMRI to measure participants' brain activity while they imagined scenarios listed on prompts, like "Imagine you win the lottery." The scenarios varied in vividness and valence -- some were positive, others negative. Only the vividness of a scenario influenced the activity of the ventral default mode network. Conversely, only the positive or negative quality of the imagined scenario affected the activity of the dorsal default mode network. The results indicate the default mode network is divided into separate subsystems for constructing and evaluating imagined scenarios. Understanding this division allows for future, more detailed studies on the neural mechanisms underlying imagination.


Paper title: The Ventral and Dorsal Default Mode Networks Are Dissociably Modulated by the Vividness and Valence of Imagined Events

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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