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Adv Exp Med Biol. 2012;739:276-90. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4614-1704-0_18.

The neural basis of semantic and episodic forms of self-knowledge: insights from functional neuroimaging.

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Department of Cognitive Sciences, Unversity of Liège, Liège, Belgium.


Throughout evolution, hominids have developed greater capacity to think about themselves in abstract and symbolic ways. This process has reached its apex in humans with the construction of a concept of self as a distinct entity with a personal history. This chapter provides a review of recent functional neuroimaging studies that have investigated the neural correlates of such "higher-level" aspects of the human self, focusing in particular on processes that allow individuals to consciously represent and reflect on their own personal attributes (semantic forms of self-knowledge) and experiences (episodic forms of self-knowledge). These studies point to the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) as a key neural structure for processing various kinds of self-referential information. We speculate that the MPFC may mediate dynamic processes that appraise and code the self-relatedness or self-relevance of information. This brain region may thus play a key role in creating the mental model of the self that is displayed in our mind at a given moment.

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