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Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Oct 2;7:647. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00647.

What about the "Self" is Processed in the Posterior Cingulate Cortex?

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Department of Psychiatry, Yale University , New Haven, CT , USA.


In the past decade, neuroimaging research has begun to identify key brain regions involved in self-referential processing, most consistently midline structures such as the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). The majority of studies have employed cognitive tasks such as judgment about trait adjectives or mind wandering, that have been associated with increased PCC activity. Conversely, tasks that share an element of present-centered attention (being "on task"), ranging from working memory to meditation, have been associated with decreased PCC activity. Given the complexity of cognitive processes that likely contribute to these tasks, the specific contribution of the PCC to self-related processes still remains unknown. Building on this prior literature, recent studies have employed sampling methods that more precisely link subjective experience to brain activity, such as real-time fMRI neurofeedback. This recent work suggests that PCC activity may represent a sub-component cognitive process of self-reference - "getting caught up in" one's experience. For example, getting caught up in a drug craving or a particular viewpoint. In this paper, we will review evidence across a number of different domains of cognitive neuroscience that converges in activation and deactivation of the PCC including recent neurophenomenological studies of PCC activity using real-time fMRI neurofeedback.


craving; default mode network; meditation; mind wandering; posterior cingulate cortex; real-time fMRI; resting state; self-referential processing

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