Cognitive Networking: Social Trumps Physical, and Vice Versa

Duck-rabbit illusion image. Image source: Jastrow, J. (1899). The mind’s eye. Popular Science Monthly, 54, 299-312.

Many of our work and leisure activities are accomplished by multitasking. For instance, answering email at your computer while talking to someone by phone, or talking by cell phone while riding a bike or walking the dog. How about standing at the stove sautéing vegetables while on the phone…reading a cookbook?

I often feel inadequate at multitasking. My strength has always been more depth rather than breadth of focus.

But a recently published study byA.I. Jack et al. in Neuroimage may bring redemption to those with more singular neural abilities. Jack’s paper entitled “fMRI reveals reciprocal inhibition between social and physical cognitive domains” describes competing neural networks, and provides convincing evidence that use of one of the networks not only precludes activation of the other, but actually suppresses the competing network.

First a bit about the networks involved. They are identified as the task positive network (TPN) and the default mode network (DMN). Many neuroscience researchers characterize the TPN as that used for external attention, and DMN as that used for internal attention (that directed toward self or internal states). Examples of internal attention are said to include episodic memory and future thinking. The DMN is also referred to as the task negative network. Continue reading “Cognitive Networking: Social Trumps Physical, and Vice Versa”