Since the salience network plays a critical role as the brain’s moderator, it can cause serious mental illness when it presents abnormal behavior. Yet, with its relatively recent discovery, there are many exciting possibilities for new treatments, and it will have lasting implications for modern medicine and research.
When the SN sustains damage through injury, dementia, or other degenerative diseases, it has been shown to also cause dysfunction in the dominant control networks.9 Though damage to any part of the brain is problematic, it’s necessary to maintain the SN’s structural integrity to preserve important cognitive function.9 Physical damage to the salience network can impact actions, as well as pain,10 and moral reasoning.11
If the SN becomes over or underactive, it can mishandle network switching and emotional regulation which leads to negative implications for the brain. This abnormal activity8 can be a feature of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia.12
Using this insight to evaluate the SN’s impacts neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders can open the door to possible treatments.
By uncovering why the SN sometimes irregularly moderates the brain’s response to pain, we can develop methods to correct it. For instance, if we understand why pain is elevated in individuals with chronic pain, we can stimulate and change specific areas of the brain to help regulate pain processing. The same holds true for mental illness. If we can identify the areas of the brain causing depression or other disorders, we can uncover therapies to lessen or eliminate their impact on the human mind.
With these advances, treatment to the salience network offers incredible possibilities to support those in the global population suffering from ongoing mental or physical health disorders.
The salience network is just one of the seven main brain networks. Find out how other networks are changing the course of neuroscience.