Medial PFC damage abolishes the self-reference effect

J Cogn Neurosci. 2012 Feb;24(2):475-81. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00138. Epub 2011 Sep 26.


Functional neuroimaging studies suggest that the medial PFC (mPFC) is a key component of a large-scale neural system supporting a variety of self-related processes. However, it remains unknown whether the mPFC is critical for such processes. In this study, we used a human lesion approach to examine this question. We administered a standard trait judgment paradigm [Kelley, W. M., Macrae, C. N., Wyland, C. L., Caglar, S., Inati, S., & Heatherton, T. F. Finding the self? An event-related fMRI study. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 14, 785-794, 2002] to patients with focal brain damage to the mPFC. The self-reference effect (SRE), a memory advantage conferred by self-related processing, served as a measure of intact self-processing ability. We found that damage to the mPFC abolished the SRE. The results demonstrate that the mPFC is necessary for the SRE and suggest that this structure is important for self-referential processing and the neural representation of self.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Personality / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / injuries*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology*