In the present paper, we will apply the predictive and reactive control systems (PARCS) theory as a framework that integrates competing theories of neural substrates of awareness by describing the "default mode network" (DMN) and anterior insula (AI) as parts of two different behavioral and homeostatic control systems. The DMN, a network that becomes active at rest when there is no external stimulation or task to perform, has been implicated in self-reflective awareness and prospection. By contrast, the AI is associated with awareness and task-related attention. This has led to competing theories stressing the role of the DMN in self-awareness vs. the role of interoceptive and emotional information integration in the AI in awareness of the emotional moment. In PARCS, the respective functions of the DMN and AI in a specific control system explains their association with different qualities of awareness, and how mental states can shift from one state (e.g., prospective self-reflection) to the other (e.g., awareness of the emotional moment) depending on the relative dominance of control systems. These shifts between reactive and predictive control are part of processes that enable the intake of novel information, integration of this novel information within existing knowledge structures, and the creation of a continuous personal context in which novel information can be integrated and understood. As such, PARCS can explain key characteristics of mental states, such as their temporal and spatial focus (e.g., a focus on the here and now vs. the future; a first person vs. a third person perspective). PARCS further relates mental states to brain states and functions, such as activation of the DMN or hemispheric asymmetry in frontal cortical functions. Together, PARCS deepens the understanding of a broad range of mental states, including mindfulness, mind wandering, rumination, autobiographical memory, imagery, and the experience of self.

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ERIM Top-Core Articles
Frontiers in Psychology
Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), Erasmus University

Tops, M., Boksem, M., Quirin, M., IJzerman, H., & Koole, S. (2014). Internally directed cognition and mindfulness: An integrative perspective derived from predictive and reactive control systems theory. Frontiers in Psychology, 5(MAY). doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00429