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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2007;31(4):585-96.

Relevance to self: A brief review and framework of neural systems underlying appraisal.

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William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital, Madison, WI 53705, USA.


We argue that many similar findings observed in cognitive, affective, and social neuroimaging research may compose larger processes central to generating self-relevance. In support of this, recent findings from these research domains were reviewed to identify common systemic activation patterns. Superimposition of these patterns revealed evidence for large-scale supramodal processes, which are argued to mediate appraisal of self-relevant content irrespective of specific stimulus types (e.g. words, pictures) and task domains (e.g. induction of reward, fear, pain, etc.). Furthermore, we distinguish between two top-down sub-systems involved in appraisal of self-relevance, one that orients pre-attentive biasing information (e.g. anticipatory or mnemonic) to salient or explicitly self-relevant phenomena, and another that engages introspective processes (e.g. self-reflection, evaluation, recollection) either in conjunction with or independent of the former system. Based on aggregate patterns of activation derived from the reviewed studies, processes in a ventral medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC)-subcortical network appear to track with the former pathway, and processes in a dorsal MPFC-cortical-subcortical network with the latter. As a whole, the purpose of this framework is to re-conceive the functionality of these systems in terms of supramodal processes that more directly reflect the influences of relevance to the self.

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