I had to laugh when I saw your question because…well this is an extremely complex topic and there seems to be very little agreement among neuroscientists regarding these kinds of correlations. You could, in effect, say “Sure! DMN activation has a direct impact on ego development and stages. Why not?” And you could probably find some research to at least marginally support your view. But in reality…we just don’t know - in fact we don’t even know (for certain) if the DMN actually exists, or just captures a current picture of a certain combination/distribution of brain functions. In other words, it may only be a placeholder for a more complex understanding still waiting in the wings.
That said, here’s my take using what I believe to be a relatively current inclusion of relevant placeholders….
I suspect that ego formation and development relies on equal involvement from several systems and regions of the brain. These probably include the Default Mode Network, the Salience Network, the Central Executive Network, various avenues of inter-hemispheric exchange, MTL structures and their communication with higher level cortical regions/functions, and many more contributive regions, structures and functions. In fact I would further assert that without all of these components interacting smoothly and in healthy harmony with each other, ego formation and development would be difficult - and perhaps not occur predictably, or at all. This balance is so orchestral in nature that emotional trauma or physiological disruption to any of these components could sabotage the expected course of how narrative self relates to ego, how ego relates to the perceived world around it, how egoic impulses are managed and so on. And then there are the more conscious or deliberate modes of ego-transformation, which likely depend on additional variables and involvements.
So I suppose the moral of this answer is: we should be wary of overzealous reductionism.
My 2 cents.
Comment from Prasanth Chandrahasan: There is a background to this question. Unfortunately, when trying to add this as a question detail, I am exceeding Quora’s word limit. Please don’t downvote and collapse because this is important.
Ken Wilber has argued, citing the work of developmental psychologist late Skip Alexander that only meditation can bring about a change in ego development between the ages of 25 to 55. Specifically, any one who meditates regularly for at least five years is shown to jump two levels in an ego development cycle. Wilber refers to Loevinger's stages of ego development and also to several other models as well.
Alexander’s research focused on Transcendental Meditation (TM) which is known to activate the Default Mode in the brain (I am aware of the ambiguity of this term but herein it is referred as per the research papers). So putting these together, one could argue that the brain’s ability to wander around (or be in Default Mode) is actually helpful in ego development.
Sure enough, there is a lot of research in the field all of which are coming from the TM organization (Alexander too). Not that I don’t trust it, just wondering if this is an area of active research and if so, is there any definitive results.
I have read your post Prasanth. I appreciate Ken’s work but he is mistaken in this regard - I think he is probably referencing his own experience, but there are many different ways to encourage development along any trajectory (that is, whether one agrees with Loevinger’s stages or not). Consider, for example, the different non-meditative paths of yoga, any of which could enhance the maturation of ego state. As for research to support this assertion, that is sparse. Additionally, some forms of meditation activate the DMN, but others do not, so that is not a reliable touchstone for comparison. In fact I would return you to my original answer, in that even with meditation, unless there is integration and harmony via all of the components referenced, ego development will not occur. Incidentally, I would offer a slightly different take on ego development that I think exceeds Loevinger’s schema and is inclusive of moral development. You can view that here (just scroll down page to view document): Integral Lifework Developmental Correlations
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