UBC Theses and Dissertations
Functional neuroanatomy of self-generated thought : investigating general brain recruitment, specific neural correlates, and neural origins using functional magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion tensor imaging Fox, Kieran C. R.
The human brain is not limited to the here and now, but can roam freely away from the present moment. It has evolved the remarkable capacity to conjure up the past, project itself into hypothetical futures, and envision entirely imaginary worlds and experiences. All of these capacities can be understood as variations on the theme of the brain’s ability to self-generate thoughts and imagery without any direct relation or relevance to the surrounding environment and its continuous sensory inputs. Here we examine the neural basis of such self-generated thought from a variety of angles, aiming to address numerous fundamental questions, including: general brain recruitment associated with self-generated thought; the brain basis of self- generated thought throughout the sleep cycle; specific neural correlates associated with specific types of thought; whether experimental contexts (such as the MRI scanner) influence thought content; whether specific individual patterns or ‘styles’ of thinking are associated with individual neuroanatomical heterogeneities in grey and white matter; which brain regions are necessary and sufficient for the experience of self-generated thought in wakefulness and sleep; and finally, the neuroanatomical origin sites that give rise to self-generated mental content. Substantial and meaningful (if preliminary) answers are provided to each of these questions based on six studies involving a variety of meta-analytic and empirical methods, and a combination of behavioral, functional neuroimaging, and morphometric neuroimaging data.
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