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Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2013 Dec;8(8):878-86. doi: 10.1093/scan/nss086. Epub 2012 Jul 25.

The neural correlates of positive self-evaluation and self-related memory.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatic Medicine, Medical School, RWTH Aachen University, Pauwelsstr. 30, 52074 Aachen, Germany.


Humans tend to have a positive self-evaluation (PSE). To what extent positive self-perception is interacting with valenced self-related memories is debated. The underlying neural substrates are not adequately explained yet. To explore the cerebral correlates of PSE and its influence on memory, 24 healthy subjects were asked during fMRI to decide in two conditions whether presented positive and negative personality traits characterized their own selves (self-evaluation) or an intimate other (other-evaluation). A lexical condition served as control task. In a subsequent unannounced recognition task, trait adjectives had to be classified as old or new. Activation during positive self- vs positive other-evaluation was found in the medial ventral and dorsolateral prefrontal gyri, the parahippocampus and the supplementary motor area. Memory increased for positive personality traits and traits that had been referred to oneself or the other. In contrast to adjectives of the other-evaluation or lexical condition, recollection of negative vs positive traits of the self-evaluation condition specifically induced increased activation in the hippocampus and several prefrontal and temporal areas. Our data imply a specific network for PSE (although intimate others are perceived similarly). Moreover, memory for traits contradicting PSE resulted in activation increases indicating greater cognitive effort and emotional involvement.


emotion; fMRI; memory; recognition; self

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