The resting brain and our self: self-relatedness modulates resting state neural activity in cortical midline structures

Neuroscience. 2008 Nov 11;157(1):120-31. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.08.014. Epub 2008 Aug 19.


The resting brain shows high neural activity in various regions, the default-mode network, chief among them the cortical midline structures (CMS). The psychological correlate of high resting state neural activity in CMS remains however unclear though speculatively it has been associated with processing of internally-oriented self-relatedness. We used functional MRI to examine internally-oriented self-relatedness during the resting state period. This was indirectly done by letting subjects perceive emotional pictures followed by a fixation cross; the very same pictures were then rated subjectively according to their degree of self-relatedness in a postscanning session. This allowed us to correlate the picture ratings of self-relatedness with signal changes in the subsequent resting state period, i.e. fixation period. The emotional pictures' degree of self-relatedness parametrically modulated subsequent resting state signal changes in various CMS, including ventro- and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex and posterior cingulate cortex. This modulation could be distinguished from effects of emotion dimensions (e.g. valence, intensity) and evoked effects of self-relatedness during the stimulus period itself the latter being observed rather in subcortical regions, e.g. amygdala, ventral striatum, and tectum. In sum, our findings suggest that resting state neural activity in CMS is parametrically and specifically modulated by the preceding stimulus's degree of self-relatedness. This lends further support to the presumed involvement of these regions in processing internally-oriented self-relatedness as distinguished from externally-oriented self-relatedness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Ego*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Rest / physiology*
  • Rest / psychology*
  • Young Adult