Towards a functional neuroanatomy of self processing: effects of faces and words

Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2000 Sep;10(1-2):133-44. doi: 10.1016/s0926-6410(00)00036-7.


We studied the neural correlates of self vs. non-self judgements using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Individually tailored faces and personality trait words were used as stimuli in three experiments (exp.). In the first two experiments, brain activation was measured while subjects viewed morphed versions of either their own (self face exp.) or their partner's face (partner's face exp.), alternating in blocks with presentation of an unknown face. In the self face exp. right limbic areas (hippocampal formation, insula, anterior cingulate), the right middle temporal lobe, left inferior parietal and left prefrontal regions showed signal changes. In the partner's face exp., only the right insula was activated. In the third exp., subjects made decisions about psychological trait adjectives previously categorized as describing their own attributes. Activation was present in the precuneus, the left parietal lobe, left insula/inferior frontal gyrus and the left anterior cingulate. A reaction time advantage was present when subjects responded to self-relevant words. The main area with signal changes during self-reference processing, regardless of the type of stimulus, was the left fusiform gyrus. The self-relevant stimuli engaged to a differential extent long term and working memory, semantic and emotional processes. We suggest that regions activated by these stimuli are engaged in self-processing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior / physiology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Ego
  • Face
  • Humans
  • Judgment / physiology
  • Language
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Personality
  • Self Concept*