Task-dependent organization of brain regions active during rest

The human brain demonstrates complex yet systematic patterns of neural activity at rest. We examined whether functional connectivity among those brain regions typically active during rest depends on ongoing and recent task demands and individual differences. We probed the temporal coordination among these regions during periods of language comprehension and during the rest periods that followed comprehension. Our findings show that the topography of this ..rest network.. varies with exogenous processing demands. The network encompassed more highly interconnected regions during rest than during listening, but also when listening to unsurprising vs. surprising information. Furthermore, connectivity patterns during rest varied as a function of recent listening experience. Individual variability in connectivity strength was associated with cognitive function: more attentive comprehenders demonstrated weaker connectivity during language comprehension, and a greater differentiation between connectivity during comprehension and rest. The regions we examined have generally been thought to form an invariant physiological and functional network whose activity reflects spontaneous cognitive processes. Our findings suggest that their function extends beyond the mediation of unconstrained thought, and that they play an important role in higher-level cognitive function.