Self-processing and the default mode network: Interactions with the mirror neuron system

Istvan Molnar-Szakacs, Lucina Q. Uddin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

111 Scopus citations


Recent evidence for the fractionation of the default mode network (DMN) into functionally distinguishable subdivisions with unique patterns of connectivity calls for a reconceptualization of the relationship between this network and self-referential processing. Advances in resting-state functional connectivity analyses are beginning to reveal increasingly complex patterns of organization within the key nodes of the DMN - medial prefrontal cortex and posterior cingulate cortex - as well as between these nodes and other brain systems. Here we review recent examinations of the relationships between the DMN and various aspects of self-relevant and social-cognitive processing in light of emerging evidence for heterogeneity within this network. Drawing from a rapidly evolving social-cognitive neuroscience literature, we propose that embodied simulation and mentalizing are processes which allow us to gain insight into another's physical and mental state by providing privileged access to our own physical and mental states. Embodiment implies that the same neural systems are engaged for self- and other-understanding through a simulation mechanism, while mentalizing refers to the use of high-level conceptual information to make inferences about the mental states of self and others. These mechanisms work together to provide a coherent representation of the self and by extension, of others. Nodes of the DMN selectively interact with brain systems for embodiment and mentalizing, including the mirror neuron system, to produce appropriate mappings in the service of social-cognitive demands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberSEP
StatePublished - Sep 11 2013


  • Autobiographical memory
  • Embodiment
  • Functional connectivity
  • Medial prefrontal cortex
  • Mentalizing
  • Posterior cingulate cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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