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Soc Neurosci. 2009;4(3):197-211. doi: 10.1080/17470910802250519.

Modulation of cortical midline structures by implicit and explicit self-relevance evaluation.

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  • 1Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA.


Recent neuroimaging work has observed activity in cortical midline structures (CMS) such as medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortices during self-referential processing. Moreover, items rated as self-relevant produce increased activity in these regions relative to items that are deemed not self-relevant. A common thread among previous reports has been reliance on experimental tasks that encourage or require online self-referential processing. In this paper, we report findings from two experiments that manipulated requirements for self-reflection. In Experiment 1, subjects rated trait adjectives for social desirability and for self-relevance. Results revealed increasing activity in CMS with increasing self-relevance, but only during explicit ratings of self-relevance. In Experiment 2, we examined CMS activity during passive viewing of personal semantic facts (such as subjects' own first names). Taken together, these results suggest that highly self-relevant information captures attention through neural mechanisms that are comparable to those engaged during explicit self-reflection, namely via recruitment of CMS structures.

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