While reading Micheal Pollan’s book How to Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics, I was surprised to find that there was no mention of the Task Positive Network (TPN).

On the other hand, The Default Mode Network (DMN) is mentioned at length and spans more than 80 pages.

What are these terms, what do they mean, and how does it relate to the use of psilocybin?

We unpack all of that, for you and with you right here below.

Both the Default Mode Network and the Task Positive Networks are specific collections of various brain regions that display functional connectivity. What that means is that these are specific routes, pathways, and coordinated functions and are labeled as such.


Default Mode Network (DMN)


This precise brain coordination defines how we see the world and how we understand our place in it, or as Micheal Pollan said in his talk: “The Default Mode Network is the location of the ego”.

The DMN is also responsible for the way we socially understand others, our perception of emotions, empathy, theory of mind, and even morality according to this article in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Read our earlier post to learn more about the Default Mode Network.


Task Positive Network (TPN)


In complete contrast, the Task Positive Network is a coordinated activation of brain regions responsible for decision-making, attention, and working memory.

These two organized neural activities act as see-saws. They oscillate from one to the other based on the activity undertaken.

This Medical Journal published that:

“The DMN is known to deactivate during cognitive tasks, while a generic task-positive network (TPN) is activated; and the TPN deactivates during introspection, while the DMN becomes more active. Importantly, this competitive relationship between DMN and TPN activity may be preserved under task-free conditions.”

In short, the Task Positive Network is what enables us to execute attention-demanding tasks. This coordination first takes place via our senses, then through our internal condition, and finally to the ultimate execution of the intended plan.


Task Positive Network
The task-positive network (TPN). Source:


Difference between the DMN and the TPN

Perhaps the best way to describe the practical difference between these two brain networks is when we feel out of balance.

When a Default Mode Network (DMN) is out of calibration, we can feel prone to rumination on the past or present. We can feel disconnected from the world and perhaps even ourselves.

This is precisely when the magic of the Task Positive Network (TPN) comes to life. When we feel low, stuck, or overwhelmed, one of the most reliable cures is doing something. Taking on activity of any kind switches us out of DMN and into TPN.

The activity in question can be as gentle as a walk, engaging in conscious nose breathing, or perhaps even just doodling in a notebook.

The National Library of Medicine says:

“Our study [shows] the abnormal cooperation between DMN and TPN in remitted depressed patients and the relationships of this abnormal cooperation with residual emotional symptoms.”


The effects of psilocybin on the Task Positive Network


Our brains and their innate networks must be precisely calibrated to be and feel at our best. When rattled, dysregulation in the Default Mode Network can become a reliable predictor of behavioral or mental health issues.

Calibration and regulation can only happen when there are optimal neural connections. Higher levels of brain connectivity allow for fluid switching between the DMN and the TPN.

In other words, the higher the connections between brain networks, the easier it is to not ruminate, to go out and exercise, to not feel self-involved, and perhaps even act more altruistically.


Placebo vs Psilocybin Brain
Placebo vs Psilocybin Brain. Source:


When we look at the above picture, the image on the left shows a normal, well-ordered brain. In contrast, the image on the right shows a picture of a brain after a psilocybin injection.

The brain on psilocybin shows a vast cross-linking of networks, indicating greater communication across the brain as a whole. The brain seems to become temporarily more interconnected and able to create new perspectives, insights, and meanings while the DMN is temporarily pulled offline.


Why neural density matters


The richer the neural connections across all areas of our brains, the more optimally they function and also switch from one to the other.

More pathways mean more connections. More connections mean optimal functioning. When supplementing with psilocybin, neural pathways become denser.

Of course, future research has yet to show how the TPN relates to low-dose psilocybin intake instead of high-dose, but in my opinion, this added density could be correlated to the multitude of anecdotal reports from microdosers that have either quit bad habits and/or implemented previously unattainable good habits.

The ease of quitting smoking and committing to a daily exercise routine is often reported on various online chat groups and is likely correlated with the oscillation of the Default Mode Network and the Task Positive Network.

In short, this article is now over. Put your running shoes on and go out there and break a sweat. You’ll be so glad you did.

Flow strong.

Asha ✨




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The Macrodose | October 2022