Cortical midline structures and autobiographical-self processes: an activation-likelihood estimation meta-analysis

Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Sep 4:7:548. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00548.


The autobiographical-self refers to a mental state derived from the retrieval and assembly of memories regarding one's biography. The process of retrieval and assembly, which can focus on biographical facts or personality traits or some combination thereof, is likely to vary according to the domain chosen for an experiment. To date, the investigation of the neural basis of this process has largely focused on the domain of personality traits using paradigms that contrasted the evaluation of one's traits (self-traits) with those of another person's (other-traits). This has led to the suggestion that cortical midline structures (CMSs) are specifically related to self states. Here, with the goal of testing this suggestion, we conducted activation-likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analyses based on data from 28 neuroimaging studies. The ALE results show that both self-traits and other-traits engage CMSs; however, the engagement of medial prefrontal cortex is greater for self-traits than for other-traits, while the posteromedial cortex is more engaged for other-traits than for self-traits. These findings suggest that the involvement CMSs is not specific to the evaluation of one's own traits, but also occurs during the evaluation of another person's traits.

Keywords: autobiographical memory; autobiographical-self; cortical midline structures; fMRI; meta-analysis; self.

Publication types

  • Review