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The neural correlates of intentional and incidental self processing.

Authors
Type
Published Article
Journal
Neuropsychologia
0028-3932
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Volume
40
Issue
6
Pages
683–692
Identifiers
PMID: 11792407
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

The neuroscientific study of the 'Self' is just beginning to emerge. We used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to investigate cerebral activation while subjects processed words describing personality traits and physical features, in two experiments with contrasting designs: incidental and intentional. In the first experiment (intentional self processing), subjects were presented with personality trait adjectives and made judgements as to their self descriptiveness (versus non self descriptiveness). In the second experiment (incidental self processing), subjects categorised words according to whether they described physical versus psychological attributes, while unaware that the words had been arranged in blocks according to self descriptiveness. The subjects had previously rated all words for self descriptiveness 6 weeks prior to the scanning session. A reaction time advantage was present in both experiments for self descriptive trait words, suggesting a facilitation effect. Common areas of activation for the two experiments included the left superior parietal lobe, with adjacent regions of the lateral prefrontal cortex also active in both experiments. Differential signal changes were present in the left precuneus for the intentional and the right middle temporal gyrus for the incidental experiment. The results suggest that self processing involves distinct processes and can occur on more than one cognitive level with corresponding functional neuroanatomic correlates in areas previously implicated in the awareness of one's own state.

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