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Brain Behav. 2014 Mar;4(2):201-14. doi: 10.1002/brb3.211. Epub 2014 Jan 13.

Neural substrates of socioemotional self-awareness in neurodegenerative disease.

Author information

1
Memory and Aging Center, University of California San Francisco, California ; Department of Neurology, University of California San Francisco, California ; Department of Neurology, University Hospital Basel, Switzerland ; Memory Clinic, University Center for Medicine of Aging, Felix-Platter Hospital Basel, Switzerland.
2
Memory and Aging Center, University of California San Francisco, California ; Department of Neurology, University of California San Francisco, California.
3
Department of Radiology, University of California San Francisco, California ; Magnetic Resonance Imaging Unit, San Francisco Veterans Affairs Hospital San Francisco, California.
4
Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences Tucson, Arizona.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Neuroimaging studies examining neural substrates of impaired self-awareness in patients with neurodegenerative diseases have shown divergent results depending on the modality (cognitive, emotional, behavioral) of awareness. Evidence is accumulating to suggest that self-awareness arises from a combination of modality-specific and large-scale supramodal neural networks.

METHODS:

We investigated the structural substrates of patients' tendency to overestimate or underestimate their own capacity to demonstrate empathic concern for others. Subjects' level of empathic concern was measured using the Interpersonal Reactivity Index, and subject-informant discrepancy scores were used to predict regional atrophy pattern, using voxel-based morphometry analysis. Of the 102 subjects, 83 were patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) or semantic variant primary progressive aphasia (svPPA); the other 19 were healthy older adults.

RESULTS:

bvFTD and svPPA patients typically overestimated their level of empathic concern compared to controls, and overestimating one's empathic concern predicted damage to predominantly right-hemispheric anterior infero-lateral temporal regions, whereas underestimating one's empathic concern showed no neuroanatomical basis.

CONCLUSIONS:

These findings suggest that overestimation and underestimation of one's capacity for empathic concern cannot be interpreted as varying degrees of the same phenomenon, but may arise from different pathophysiological processes. Damage to anterior infero-lateral temporal regions has been associated with semantic self-knowledge, emotion processing, and social perspective taking; neuropsychological functions partly associated with empathic concern itself. These findings support the hypothesis that-at least in the socioemotional domain-neural substrates of self-awareness are partly modality-specific.

KEYWORDS:

Affective perspective taking; dementia; empathy; infero-lateral temporal cortex; neurodegeneration; semantic self-knowledge; unawareness; voxel-based morphometry

PMID:
24683513
PMCID:
PMC3967536
DOI:
10.1002/brb3.211
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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