Portraying the unique contribution of the default mode network to internally driven mnemonic processes

Irit Shapira-Lichter*, Noga Oren, Yael Jacob, Michal Gruberger, Talma Hendler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Numerous neuroimaging studies have implicated default mode network (DMN) involvement in both internally driven processes and memory. Nevertheless, it is unclear whether memory operations reflect a particular case of internally driven processing or alternatively involve the DMN in a distinct manner, possibly depending on memory type. This question is critical for refining neurocognitive memory theorem in the context of other endogenic processes and elucidating the functional significance of this key network. We used functional MRI to examine DMN activity and connectivity patterns while participants overtly generated words according to nonmnemonic (phonemic) or mnemonic (semantic or episodic) cues. Overall, mnemonic word fluency was found to elicit greater DMN activity and stronger within-network functional connectivity compared with nonmnemonic fluency. Furthermore, two levels of functional organization of memory retrieval were shown. First, across both mnemonic tasks, activity was greater mainly in the posterior cingulate cortex, implying selective contribution to generic aspects of memory beyond its general involvement in endogenous processes. Second, parts of the DMN showed distinct selectivity for each of the mnemonic conditions; greater recruitment of the anterior prefrontal cortex, retroesplenial cortex, and hippocampi and elevated connectivity between anterior and posterior medial DMN nodes characterized the semantic condition, whereas increased recruitment of posterior DMN components and elevated connectivity between them characterized the episodic condition. This finding emphasizes the involvement of DMN elements in discrete aspects of memory retrieval. Altogether, our results show a specific contribution of the DMN to memory processes, corresponding to the specific type of memory retrieval.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4950-4955
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number13
StatePublished - 26 Mar 2013


  • Free recall
  • Memory search
  • Word fluency


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