This article is part of the Research Topic Towards a neuroscience of social interaction

Hypothesis & Theory ARTICLE

Front. Hum. Neurosci., 21 June 2012 | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00189

On the relationship between the “default mode network” and the “social brain”

  • 1Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  • 2Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK
  • 3Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, Netherlands
  • 4McGill University, Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, Montreal, QC, Canada

The default mode network (DMN) of the brain consists of areas that are typically more active during rest than during active task performance. Recently however, this network has been shown to be activated by certain types of tasks. Social cognition, particularly higher-order tasks such as attributing mental states to others, has been suggested to activate a network of areas at least partly overlapping with the DMN. Here, we explore this claim, drawing on evidence from meta-analyses of functional MRI data and recent studies investigating the structural and functional connectivity of the social brain. In addition, we discuss recent evidence for the existence of a DMN in non-human primates. We conclude by discussing some of the implications of these observations.

Keywords: default mode network, mentalizing, social cognition, fMRI, theory of mind, TPJ, posterior cingulate, medial frontal cortex

Citation: Mars RB, Neubert F, Noonan MP, Sallet J, Toni I and Rushworth MFS (2012) On the relationship between the “default mode network” and the “social brain”. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 6:189. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00189

Received: 29 February 2012; Accepted: 07 June 2012;
Published online: 21 June 2012.

Edited by:

Chris Frith, Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London, UK

Reviewed by:

Micah Allen, Center for Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, Denmark
Randy Buckner, Harvard University, USA

Copyright: © 2012 Mars, Neubert, Noonan, Sallet, Toni and Rushworth. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited.

*Correspondence: Rogier B. Mars, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Tinbergen Building, South Parks Road, Oxford OX3 1UD, UK. e-mail:

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