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Brain Manages Low-Priority Decisions

Brain Manages Low-Priority DecisionsA new brain imaging study discovers our brain triages lowpriority issues into an area called the default-mode network.

This placement of material in this network allows us to stage information until a time when we aren’t busy with something else.

“The default-mode network appears to be the brain’s back burner for social decision making,” said Peter T. Fox, M.D., director of the Research Imaging Institute at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

“Usually these back-burner ideas relate to interpersonal interactions and decisions that can’t readily be quantified and shouldn’t be rushed.”

Dr. Fox likened this to putting a computer batch job into background processing to wait until the system is less busy.

Role of genetics

A recently released study from the Research Imaging Institute, the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research and other institutions offers evidence that genetics plays a role in this back-burner setup, which has been shown to be abnormal in a variety of psychiatric disorders.

The work was described in the online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The default-mode network is one of several neural networks that operate whether the mind is at rest or is occupied doing a task.

A separate PNAS paper, published in 2009 by Dr. Fox and the same collaborators, presented a strong case that all human behaviors may be properly viewed as cooperative interactions among these networks, Dr. Fox said.

Maps

The newer research estimated the importance of genetic effects on the default-mode network by creating maps of eight anatomically distinct regions within the network. These maps were obtained by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies in 333 individuals from 29 randomly selected, extended-family pedigrees.

Network connectivity and gray-matter density were correlated to genetic factors.

“We found that more than 40 percent of the between-subject variance in functional connectivity within the default-mode network was under genetic control,” Dr. Fox said.

Based on this information, it is possible new diagnostic tools could be considered for various psychiatric or neurological illnesses, he said.

The project is an outgrowth of longstanding collaborations between the UT Health Science Center and the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research using tools for gene discovery. It is also a result of substantial collaborations between the Research Imaging Institute and Oxford to develop novel applications of imaging methods.

Future directions

“One long-term research goal is to test whether other intrinsically connected networks are also under genetic control, which we expect they will be,” Dr. Fox said.

“We also want to identify the genes that are controlling the default-mode network and other networks, and identify disorders associated with their abnormalities. A final goal is to develop treatment strategies.”

Source: University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

Brain Manages Low-Priority Decisions

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Brain Manages Low-Priority Decisions. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 16, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/02/11/brain-manages-low-priority-decisions/11369.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.