Recent evidence shows that task-deactivations are functionally relevant for cognitive performance. Indeed, higher cognitive engagement has been associated with higher suppression of activity in task-deactivated brain regions - usually ascribed to the Default Mode Network (DMN). Moreover, a negative correlation between these regions and areas actively engaged by the task is associated with better performance. DMN regions show positive modulation during autobiographical, social, and emotional tasks. However, it is not clear how processing of emotional stimuli affects the interplay between the DMN and executive brain regions. We studied this interplay in an fMRI experiment using emotional negative stimuli as distractors. Activity modulations induced by the emotional interference of negative stimuli were found in frontal, parietal, and visual areas, and were associated with modulations of functional connectivity between these task-activated areas and DMN regions. A worse performance was predicted both by lower activity in the superior parietal cortex and higher connectivity between visual areas and frontal DMN regions. Connectivity between right inferior frontal gyrus and several DMN regions in the left hemisphere was related to the behavioral performance. This relation was weaker in the negative than in the neutral condition, likely suggesting less functional inhibitions of DMN regions during emotional processing. These results show that both executive and DMN regions are crucial for the emotional interference process and suggest that DMN connections are related to the interplay between externally-directed and internally-focused processes. Among DMN regions, superior frontal gyrus may be a key node in regulating the interference triggered by emotional stimuli.
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