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Neuropsychologia. 2011 Feb;49(3):564-73. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.12.019. Epub 2010 Dec 17.

Self-face enhances processing of immediately preceding invisible faces.

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Functional MRI Research Center, Columbia University, Neurological Institute B41, 710 W. 168th Street, New York, NY 10032, USA.


The self-face is thought to be an especially salient stimulus. Behavioral evidence suggests that self-face processing advantage is associated with enhanced processing of temporally adjacent subliminal stimuli. However, the neural basis of this self-related processing modulation has not been investigated. We studied self-face induced signal amplification through masked priming and repetition suppression (fMRI adaptation). Subjects performed a gender-categorization task on self- and non-self target faces preceded by subliminal (17 ms) prime faces. The relationship between prime and target was varied between task-incongruent (when prime and target belonged to a different gender) and task-congruent (when prime and target belonged to the same gender) pairs. We found that, in the presence of the visible self-face (but not of other non-self faces), a bilateral fronto-parietal network exhibited repetition suppression to subliminal prime faces belonging to the same gender (task-congruent) as the target, consistent with the notion that, in the presence of the self-face, subliminal stimuli access high-level processing systems. These results are in agreement with the notion of self-specific top-down amplification of subliminal task-relevant information, and suggest that the self-face, through its high salience, is particularly efficacious in focusing attention.

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