An fMRI investigation of the relationship between future imagination and cognitive flexibility

R.P. Roberts, K. Wiebels, R.L. Sumner, Valerie van Mulukom, C.L. Grady, D.L. Schacter, D.R. Addis

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    18 Citations (Scopus)
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    Abstract

    While future imagination is largely considered to be a cognitive process grounded in default mode network activity, studies have shown that future imagination recruits regions in both default mode and frontoparietal control networks. In addition, it has recently been shown that the ability to imagine the future is associated with cognitive flexibility, and that tasks requiring cognitive flexibility result in increased coupling of the default mode network with frontoparietal control and salience networks. In the current study, we investigated the neural correlates underlying the association between cognitive flexibility and future imagination in two ways. First, we experimentally varied the degree of cognitive flexibility required during future imagination by manipulating the disparateness of episodic details contributing to imagined events. To this end, participants generated episodic details (persons, locations, objects) within three social spheres; during fMRI scanning they were presented with sets of three episodic details all taken from the same social sphere (Congruent condition) or different social spheres (Incongruent condition) and required to imagine a future event involving the three details. We predicted that, relative to the Congruent condition, future simulation in the Incongruent condition would be associated with increased activity in regions of the default mode, frontoparietal and salience networks. Second, we hypothesized that individual differences in cognitive flexibility, as measured by performance on the Alternate Uses Task, would correspond to individual differences in the brain regions recruited during future imagination. A task partial least squares (PLS) analysis showed that the Incongruent condition resulted in an increase in activity in regions in salience networks (e.g. the insula) but, contrary to our prediction, reduced activity in many regions of the default mode network (including the hippocampus). A subsequent functional connectivity (within-subject seed PLS) analysis showed that the insula exhibited increased coupling with default mode regions during the Incongruent condition. Finally, a behavioral PLS analysis showed that individual differences in cognitive flexibility were associated with differences in activity in a number of regions from frontoparietal, salience and default-mode networks during both future imagination conditions, further highlighting that the cognitive flexibility underlying future imagination is grounded in the complex interaction of regions in these networks.

    Publisher Statement: NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Neuropsychologia. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Neuropsychologia, [95, (2017)] DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2016.11.019

    © 2017, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)156-172
    Number of pages17
    JournalNeuropsychologia
    Volume95
    Early online date28 Nov 2016
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2017

    Bibliographical note

    NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Neuropsychologia. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Neuropsychologia, [95, (2017)] DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2016.11.019

    © 2017, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

    Keywords

    • autobiographical memory
    • cognitive flexibility
    • default mode network
    • divergent thinking
    • episodic simulation
    • frontoparietal control network
    • future thinking
    • salience network

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