The Default Mode Network (DMN) in Neuropsychiatric Issues
Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes PhD, LPC-MHSP, LMHC
AllCEUs Counselor Education
Describe the function and interactions of the Default Mode Network, the Salience and Emotion Network and the Executive Control Network
Explore network dysfunction as a result of physical or emotional trauma
Explain how these networks have been implicated in neuropsychiatric issues
Explain how activities that promote neuroplasticity can be used to improve regulation of the networks
3 Networks: SEN, ECN, DMN
Roles of the networks include the consolidation of memory, facilitation of working memory, continuous situational awareness, processing of emotionally-salient stimuli, and the interplay between emotional processing and cognitive functions
Salience and Emotion Network
Cognitive Control / Executive Control Network
Default Mode Network
Salience & Emotion Network (Scout): Detects and filters salient emotional and sensory stimuli, as well as in recruiting relevant functional networks (includes the amygdala)
Connectivity between the SEN (especially the amygdala) and ECN may facilitate superior adaptive behavior in the context of emotionally salient information
Executive Control Network/ Cognitive Control Network (logical mind): Takes control and actively processes information (opposite of DMN)
The default-mode (auto-pilot/projection/emotional mind) refers to a state in which an individual is alert, but not actively involved in an attention-demanding or goal-directed tasks and interprets salient stimuli based on prior experiences / schema
The anterior DMN participates in attribution of personal value and emotional regulation
The posterior DMN, directs attention to the internal world
The amygdala while not part of the DMN has extensive projections to the orbital frontal cortex (OFC) and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (MPFC)
Parts of the DMN…
Orbital Frontal Cortex: Reward value of sensory stimuli (i.e. taste and smell)
Medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC): Empathy
DMN dysfunction is implicated in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD), epilepsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), prenatal cocaine exposure, anxiety, depression, PTSD and personality disorders (ASPD, BPD, NPD)
The 3 Networks
SEN is constantly noting stimuli and based on their salience either allows the DMN to stay activated(nothing to see here) or recruits the ECN (needing input or active intervention)
The Impact of Trauma
Trauma is when a person is exposed to a threat to their person or safety or the safety of a significant other.
When people experience chronic trauma (DV, PTSD…) it keeps the HPA-Axis activated and causes the hippocampus (emotion regulation) to shrink and the amygdala (fear processing) to enlarge.
Because of its strong connection to the DMN, when the amygdala is hyperactive, it prompts auto-pilot/fear-based/reactive responses… no time to think just fight or flee.
Additionally, the enlarged amygdala in people with anxiety contributes to hypervigilance and stimulus over-generalization
When the DMN is active it often drifts into the thoughts that are most salient for the person
Greater levels of mind-wandering within the depressed group were associated with stronger SEN/DMN connectivity
In individuals with addictions
Connectivity of the anterior DMN (emotional regulation) tends to be decreased..
When the brain is directed towards a task or goal or being in the present moment (including guided imagery or mindfulness), the default network deactivates and there is an increase in functional connectivity with the executive control network (logical mind)….
Becoming aware of the DMN, SEN and ECN can help us understand why some people tend to ruminate more and be more reactive while others operate from a more cognitive perspective
It also helps us understand the long-tail benefits of things like meditation which improve the connectivity of the SEN to the ECN and enhance Task Induced Deactivation of the DMN
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