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Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2006 Jun;1(1):18-25. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsl001.

Medial prefrontal activity differentiates self from close others.

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Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Center for Social Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, USA.


A key question in psychology and neuroscience is the extent to which the neural representation of others is incorporated with, or is distinct from, our concept of self. Recent neuroimaging research has emphasized the importance of a region in the medial prefrontal cortex [MPFC; Brodmann's area (BA) 10] when performing self-referent tasks. Specifically, previous studies have reported selective MPFC recruitment when making judgments about the self relative to a familiar but personally unknown other. The present event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging study extends these findings to judgments about personally known others. Subjects were imaged while making trait adjective judgments in one of the three conditions: (i) whether the adjective described the self; (ii) whether the adjective described an intimate other (i.e., a best friend); or (iii) whether the adjective was presented in uppercase letters. Making judgments about the self relative to an intimate other selectively activated the MPFC region previously implicated in the self-processing literature. These results suggest that while we may incorporate intimate others into our self-concept, the neural correlates of the self remain distinct from intimate and non-intimate others.

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