ArticlePDF AvailableLiterature Review

Self-awareness and the left inferior frontal gyrus: Inner speech use during self-related processing


Abstract and Figures

To test the hypothesis of a participation of inner speech in self-referential activity we reviewed 59 studies measuring brain activity during processing of self-information in the following self-domains: agency, self-recognition, emotions, personality traits, autobiographical memory, preference judgments, and REST. The left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) has been shown to sustain inner speech use. We calculated the percentage of studies reporting LIFG activity for each self-dimension. 55.9% of all studies reviewed identified LIFG (and presumably inner speech) activity during self-awareness tasks. Furthermore, the LIFG was more frequently recruited during conceptual tasks (e.g., emotions, traits) than during perceptual tasks (e.g., agency, self-recognition). This supports the view of a relative involvement of inner speech in self-reflective processes.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Brain Research Bulletin 74 (2007) 387–396
Self-awareness and the left inferior frontal gyrus: Inner speech
use during self-related processing
Alain Morin , Jayson Michaud
Behavioral Sciences, Mount Royal College, 4825 Mount Royal Gate S.W., Calgary, Alberta, Canada T3E 6K6
Received 21 January 2007; received in revised form 4 May 2007; accepted 15 June 2007
Available online 5 July 2007
To test the hypothesis of a participation of inner speech in self-referential activity we reviewed 59 studies measuring brain activity during
processing of self-information in the following self-domains: agency, self-recognition, emotions, personality traits, autobiographical memory,
preference judgments, and REST. The left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) has been shown to sustain inner speech use. We calculated the percentage
of studies reporting LIFG activity for each self-dimension. 55.9% of all studies reviewed identified LIFG (and presumably inner speech) activity
during self-awareness tasks. Furthermore, the LIFG was more frequently recruited during conceptual tasks (e.g., emotions, traits) than during
perceptual tasks (e.g., agency, self-recognition). This supports the view of a relative involvement of inner speech in self-reflective processes.
Crown Copyright © 2007 Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Self-awareness; Self-referential activity; Inner speech; Left inferior frontal gyrus; Conceptual self-domains; Perceptual self-domains
1. Methods................................................................................................................ 388
2. Results and discussion ................................................................................................... 389
2.1. Overview ........................................................................................................ 389
2.2. Agency and self-recognition ....................................................................................... 390
2.3. Personality traits .................................................................................................. 390
2.4. Autobiographical memory ......................................................................................... 390
2.5. Emotions......................................................................................................... 391
2.6. Evaluative judgments .............................................................................................. 391
2.7. Rest ............................................................................................................. 392
3. Conclusion ............................................................................................................. 393
Conflicts of Interest ....................................................................................................... 393
Acknowledgements ..................................................................................................... 393
References ............................................................................................................. 393
Numerous studies looking into the neural basis of self-
referential activity have been conducted since the publication
of Craik et al.’s original paper in 1999. Convergent evidence
strongly suggests that the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) plays
an important role in self-related processes [43,44,86,87]. The
MPFC is also frequently activated during “Theory-of-Mind”
Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 403 440 7069; fax: +1 403 440 7027.
E-mail address: (A. Morin).
tasks [1,34,113], indicating that thinking about one’s own and
others’ mental states probably recruits the same neuroanatomi-
cal structures [22,23,79]. The neural representation of self also
includes the precuneus, anterior and posterior cingulate corti-
cles, right inferotemporal cortex, inferior and posterior parietal
corticles, basal ganglia, and insula [65].
Although the main focus of the aforementioned body of
work has consisted in identifying brain areas specifically acti-
vated during processing of self-information, current studies
are starting to examine underlying cognitive mechanisms that
0361-9230/$ – see front matter. Crown Copyright © 2007 Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
388 A. Morin, J. Michaud / Brain Research Bulletin 74 (2007) 387–396
mediate self-perception. That is, by looking at peripheral struc-
tures that are additionally recruited during self-awareness tasks,
researchers can infer what particular thought processes are
engaged as well (see [101,102]). To illustrate, retrieval of auto-
biographical information frequently activates occipital regions
(e.g., [36]); since these areas are known to support visuospa-
tial imagery [11], it has been suggested that one forms mental
images of the self in the past when accessing autobiographical
memories [39,123]. Thus mental imagery would represent one
cognitive process involved in self-awareness [80,81].
Language too has been linked to consciousness and
self-reflective activities [7,13,24,103,115,127]. Some have pro-
posed that inner speech in particular mediates self-awareness
[6,9,59,77,84,119]. Inner speech represents the activity of
talking to oneself in silence [134]. Related terms that
can be found in the literature are self-talk, subvocal/covert
speech, internal dialogue/monologue, subvocalization, utter-
ance, self-verbalization, auditory imagery, and self-statement.
Inner speech serves various cognitive functions, among which
verbal rehearsal, planning, problem-solving, task switch-
ing, retrieval aid for task goals, and self-regulation (see
[26,42,76,78,83,104,117]). Therefore one can talk to oneself
about an unlimited number of things and for different reasons
(e.g., “I should take my umbrella with me since it will probably
rain”; “What is John’s phone number again?”). When one talks to
oneself about oneself, the function then is to gain access to infor-
mation about the self. For example, one can utter “I think I’m a
pretty punctual person” (thus assessing personality traits) or “I
remember spending a month at my brother’s place last summer”
(thus retrieving autobiographical material). Various theoretical
accounts of the role played by inner speech in self-referential
activity have been put forward; these are beyond the scope of
the present review (see [82,118]). Empirical evidence, although
indirect and limited, has also been reported: a positive and sig-
nificant correlation exists between frequency of self-focus and
use of inner speech [110,116]. Ojemann [90] observed that in
brain-damaged patients, conscious experience returns in parallel
with inner speech. Conversely, healthy volunteers report inner
speech inhibition when they transit from wakefulness to sleep
[106]. Recent work by Whitehouse et al. [130] identifies inner
speech deficits in autism, a condition in which self-awareness
and Theory of Mind abilities are known to be impaired.
The goal of this paper is to further explore the hypothe-
sis of an involvement of inner speech in the acquisition of
self-information. Below we review brain-imaging studies of
self-referential processing to determine if activation of areas
known to sustain inner speech activity is reported. We propose
that if such an activation is indeed frequently observed, one can
infer that inner speech most probably was used by participants
while working on self-awareness tasks. The left inferior frontal
gyrus (LIFG—e.g., Broadmann’s areas 44, 45, and 47; Broca’s
area; left ventrolateral PFC; left frontal operculum) has con-
sistently been identified as the neuroanatomical basis of inner
speech. That is, the LIFG reliably gets activated when partic-
ipants are asked to silently articulate sentences [74] or single
words [75]; furthermore, accidental destruction of the LIFG dis-
rupts inner speech [129]. Although it has been suggested that the
LIFG serves various additional functions (e.g., cognitive control,
working memory,selection among competing alternatives, inter-
preting actions of others—see [5,27,50,93,94]), its connection
to inner speech is well established [2,21,114]. It should also be
noted that the LIFG exhibits functional heterogeneity: its most
anterior part (BA 45) is involved in retrieval of words for their
meaning while its posterior part (BA 46/47) is specialized in
getting access to words through an articulatory code ([94]; also
see [102]).
Self-referential processing includes numerous self-
dimensions that can be organized along various lines. For
instance, Gillihan and Farah [37] developed a taxonomy of
self-domains where the physical self includes self-recognition
and agency, and the psychological self comprises personality
traits, autobiographical memory, and first-person perspec-
tive. Northoff et al. [87] instead suggest the following
self-dimensions: verbal, spatial, memory, emotional, facial,
social, and agency/ownership of movements. Based on our own
review of the literature, we classified self-aspects as follows:
agency (knowledge that one is the cause of one’s actions),
self-recognition, personality traits, autobiographical memory,
emotions (including interoception—i.e., awareness of bodily
states), and evaluative judgments (i.e., subjective choices and
preferences). We also reviewed studies of the resting state
(REST), which has been shown to coincide with introspective
awareness [41,131]. Our main prediction is that activation of the
LIFG (i.e., inner speech use) should be observed in a reasonable
number of studies (i.e., more than 50%) investigating the neural
correlates of self-related processes. We further hypothesize
apartial participation of inner speech during self-awareness
tasks, where the need to verbally label self-aspects should be
greater in conceptual self-domains (e.g., emotions, traits) than
in perceptual self-domains (e.g., agency, self-recognition). Per-
ceptual (or sensory) self-information refers to products of one’s
direct experience with oneself (e.g., the body) or environmental
stimuli (e.g., other persons, mirrors) that identify the self;
conceptual self-information designates data about the self that
is not available to immediate perceptual experience and that
somehow has to be mentally represented to be accessible to the
self. It seems plausible that not all forms of self-focus require
self-verbalization of the information to be assessed. Perceptual
self-aspects such as self-face recognition, because of the visual
and concrete nature of the information, can most likely be
captured without words. More conceptual self-dimensions such
as emotions and personality traits however, probably entail that
one talks to oneself about them (e.g., “I feel sad”, “I’m funny”)
to be fully brought to consciousness.
1. Methods
English-language articles published prior to September 2006 were identified
from searches using PubMed, Scirus, Cogprints, and PsycINFO.1The reference
1Keywords used were: agency, autobiographical memory, brain, emotions,
fMRI, functional magnetic resonance imaging, intentions, interoceptive aware-
ness, introspection, neural correlates, PET, positron emission tomography,
personality traits, preference judgments, reflective self-awareness, resting state,
A. Morin, J. Michaud / Brain Research Bulletin 74 (2007) 387–396 389
section of each paper was examined for additional studies. Review articles (e.g.
[87,37,63]) were also carefully scrutinized. Inclusion criteria for selection of
articles were all studies measuring brain activity using hemodynamic methods
(PET and fMRI) during self-related tasks tapping into the seven aforementioned
self-domains. Exclusion criteria were: (a) Theory-of-Mind studies—these will
be examined in an independent project; (b) electrophysiological studies using
event-related potentials or EEG (e.g. [58,91]), as well as Transcranial Magnetic
Stimulation studies (e.g. [72]); (c) studies of clinical populations, including split-
brain patients (e.g. [126,128]); and (d) studies not reporting all areas of activation
(e.g. [19]). Some articles were also excluded because the tasks used, although
self-related, did not involve genuine introspection. To illustrate, in Heinzel et
al.’s report [45], participants were simply asked to view erotic and non-erotic
emotional pictures while brain activity was assessed, as opposed to rate (i.e.,
focus, introspect on) their sexual arousal levels. Two other studies that were
discarded on that basis are Kampe et al. [49] and Ochsner et al. [89].
By using this selection process, 59 articles were analyzed in order to iden-
tify the reported frequency of LIFG activation. Control conditions (i.e., non-self
tasks) were not examined because our main focus consisted in calculating LIFG
(and inner speech) involvement during self-tasks exclusively. Such a participa-
tion of the LIFG during non-self tasks does indeed occur (e.g., [17]), which is
not surprising since (as mentioned previously) inner speech is known to serve
many cognitive functions other than the one explored here—processing of self-
information. Control tasks (e.g., encoding nonsemantic information, making
decisions about statements of factual knowledge) often rely on these additional
functions of inner speech.
2. Results and discussion
2.1. Overview
Fig. 1 presents the percentage of studies in which LIFG activ-
ity for each self-domain examined here was observed. Overall,
33 of the 59 studies (55.9%) reported LIFG activity during self-
awareness tasks. This activity most likely reflects inner speech
use, as opposed to other potential LIFG functions, namely, cog-
nitive control (the ability to orchestrate thoughts and actions in
accordance with internal goals), working memory (temporar-
ily storing and manipulating information), selection among
competing alternatives (choosing among competing sources
of information to guide response—e.g., classifying pictures
according to one of many different attributes), and interpreting
others’ actions (e.g., hand and mouth movements). We argue
that none of the self-referential tasks described below engage
these functions. Our finding, to the extent that one equates LIFG
activation with inner speech use, supports the hypothesis of an
inner speech involvement in some self-referential processing.
Had we observed a very low percentage of LIFG recruitment
during self-related tasks (e.g., 10%), obviously the aforemen-
tioned hypothesis would need to be rejected or significantly
qualified; on the other hand, finding a very high percentage (e.g.,
90%) was not expected given the likelihood that other compet-
ing processes (e.g., imagery) underlie self-reflection, and that
some forms of self-awareness (e.g., agency) most probably do
not require cognition (see below).
Many studies across self-domains employed identical tasks.
For instance, four of the seven self-recognition tasks consisted in
judging if faces presented on a screen were self or other; 7 of the
self, self-awareness, self-reference, self-inferential processing, self-related pro-
cessing, self-reflection, self-recognition.
Fig. 1. Percentage of studies in which LIFG activity was observed as a function
of self-domains.
14 personality trait tasks asked participants to decide if adjec-
tive traits were self-descriptive. It remains unclear why, using
similar experimental tasks, some studies did find the target acti-
vation (e.g., [53,54]) while others did not (e.g., [31,122]). The
only detectable difference between identical tasks was the time
taken for image acquisition. One possibility might be that very
short tasks (e.g., milliseconds) did not provide participants with
enough time to genuinely self-reflect, whereas longer ones (e.g.,
minutes) did. That is, very short tasks might actually be seen
as recognition tasks not entailing much introspection (and thus
inner speech use). To test this idea, all studies specifying time
taken for image acquisition during self-awareness tasks were
divided into two groups: those reporting LIFG activity (n= 30)
and those not reporting LIFG activity (n= 24). The studies were
further divided into those with time taken for image acqui-
sition above the median duration (Mdn = 4000 ms) and those
below. A chi-squared analysis revealed no statistically signifi-
cant relationship between time and the detection of LIFG activity
(χ2(1) = 0.087, p= 0.768) (Fig. 1).2
Also consistent with our view, access to more conceptual self-
information was linked to increased LIFG activation. 68.1% of
all studies employing conceptual self-tasks (n= 44; i.e., REST,
evaluating one’s personality traits, emotions and judgments, and
accessing one’s autobiographical memory) reported LIFG activ-
ity, whereas only 20% of studies using perceptual self-tasks
(n= 15; i.e., sense of agency and face/voice self-recognition)
identified such activation. This difference was statistically sig-
nificant (χ2(1) = 11.363, p= .001). This corroborates the notion
ofadifferential involvement of inner speech across subtypes of
self-processing, where perceptual self-aspects (e.g., one’s face)
can be brought to conscious awareness without words, whereas
2We also analyzed the median split by combining the median observations
with the observations above the median and by combining the median observa-
tions with the observations below the median. In no case did the results approach
statistical significance (lowest p= 0.483). In addition, we conducted a t-test com-
paring the recording durations of observations with/without LIFG activity, even
though the distribution of recording durations is non-normal. This comparison
also failed to reach significance (t(54) = 1.04, p= 0.301). A Mann–Whitney
U-test on the same data also failed to reach significance (p= 0.397).
390 A. Morin, J. Michaud / Brain Research Bulletin 74 (2007) 387–396
conceptual self-dimensions (e.g., one’s current emotional state)
most probably necessitate verbalization.
2.2. Agency and self-recognition
All Tables included below specify (1) the authors of individ-
ual articles, (2) the hemodynamic method used, (3) the self-task
used, (4) the time required for image acquisition, and (5) LIFG
activation—or not. Table 1 presents 15 studies that measured
brain activity during agency tasks (e.g., deciding if one is respon-
sible for the movement of one’s hand) and self-recognition tasks
(e.g., judging if a face seen on a screen is one’s own or that
of another person). In accordance with the discussion above
on perceptual and conceptual self-domains, only one agency
study out of seven (14.3%) reported LIFG activity. Two out of
eight self-recognition studies (25%) showed a LIFG recruitment.
The view that self-(face) recognition unlikely necessitates verbal
labeling (i.e., inner speech use) is illustrated by Sugiura et al.’s
observation [122] that “... covert naming often accompanies
recognition of a familiar face, but rarely occurs during visual
self-recognition” (p. 147).
2.3. Personality traits
Table 2 presents 14 studies that measured brain activity during
personality trait tasks. In their review paper, Ochsner et al. [88]
(p. 798) noted frequent left inferior PFC activation in many self-
referential studies that included trait tasks. In our sample, 50%
of the studies (seven out of 14) reported LIFG activation. Fossati
et al.’s study [32] was excluded because in reporting their results,
the “Self” and “Others” conditions were combined. Most tasks
consisted in asking participants to judge if an adjective trait is
self-descriptive. As indicated earlier, one can postulate that such
a task will activate inner speech use—e.g., the presentation of the
adjective “good-looking”, for instance, could very well initiate
the following internal verbal comment: “Yes, I’m rather attrac-
tive” or “Well, it varies, I have ‘bad hair’ days”. Note that in Kjaer
et al.’s study [56] participants were explicitly invited to silently
think about their personality traits and physical appearance for
2 min: unsurprisingly, LIFG was reported.
2.4. Autobiographical memory
Table 3 reports 12 studies that measured brain activity dur-
ing autobiographical memory tasks (e.g., remembering past
personal experiences). Several articles were excluded (e.g.,
[8,20,10,85]), because episodic memory (recollection of past
events), as opposed to autobiographical memory (recollection
of past personal events), was tested. As noted before, autobio-
graphical tasks typically recruit brain areas that are active when
participants manipulate mental images. But the notion that lan-
guage is also simultaneously used to access autobiographical
memory has been discussed in the literature (see [15], pp. 10–11;
[111]). Gilboa et al. [36] observe that “Both types of studies
[autobiographical and episodic memory studies] report ventro-
lateral activations (BA 44/47) bilaterally” (p. 1341). Nolde et
al. [85] suggest greater LPFC activation (which includes the
LIFG) during more complex autobiographical remembering. In
our sample, 9 studies out of 12 (75%) reported a recruitment of
the LIFG. In phenomenological terms, one can propose that par-
ticipants remembering a past personal experience often engaged
in self-talk—e.g., “Yes, I remember that trip to South America,
it was very pleasant and exciting, my wife and kids were with
me...”, etc.
Table 1
Agency and self-recognition studies
Paper Imaging Self-task Time LIFG (BA)
Farrer and Frith [29] PET Driving a circle along a T-shaped path, either by oneself (agency)
or by the experimenter (other)
5s NO
Farrer et al. [28] PET Providing accurate/inaccurate visual feedback to participants
performing hand movements
70 s NO
Leube et al. [60] fMRI See above 2 s NO
Leube et al. [61] fMRI Deciding if there is a temporal delay between hand movements
and visual feedback of those movements
3s NO
McGuire et al. [73] PET Providing accurate/inaccurate auditory feedback while reading
250 ms NO
Ruby and Decety [105] PET Imagining self vs. other movements 5 s NO
Wraga et al. [132] fMRI Imagining rotating one’s body about a sphere until one’s eyes line
up behind the horizontal line of a prompt
500 ms 47 (but 45
Kircher et al. [54] fMRI Judging if faces are self or other 3 s 45
Kircher et al. [55] fMRI See above 3 s 45
Perrin et al. [95] PET (and ERPs) Passively listening to one’s first name, unfamiliar names, and
common first names
600 ms NO
Platek et al. [99] fMRI Judging if faces are self or other 20 s NO
Platek et al. [100] fMRI Judging if faces are self or other (known/unknown persons) 775 ms NO
Sugiura et al. [121] PET Judging if faces are self or other Unspecified NO
Sugiura et al. [122] fMRI See above 11 s NO
Uddin et al. [128] fMRI Deciding if faces presented are composites of oneself or others 2 s NO
A. Morin, J. Michaud / Brain Research Bulletin 74 (2007) 387–396 391
Table 2
Personality trait studies
Paper Imaging Self-task Time LIFG (BA)
Blackwood et al. [4] fMRI Judging if various ambiguous self-referent elements (traits,
activities and emotions) are self-descriptive (Yes/No)
7.5 s NO
Craik et al. [17] PET Judging if adjective traits are self-descriptive (Likert scale) 4 s 47
Fossati et al. [31] fMRI Judging if adjective traits are self-descriptive (Yes/No) 5 s NO
Johnson et al. [47] fMRI Judging if adjective traits, abilities and attitudes are
self-descriptive (Yes/No)
4s NO
Kelly et al. [53] fMRI Judging if adjective traits are self-descriptive (Yes/No) 2 s 47
Kircher et al. [54] fMRI Judging if adjective traits and physical characteristics are
self-descriptive (Likert scale)
3s 44
Kjaer et al. [56] PET Silently thinking about one’s traits and physical appearance 2 ms 45/47 (physical appearance
Lieberman et al. [64] fMRI Judging if adjective traits are self-descriptive in high/low
experience domains (Yes/No)
3 s 44 (nonschematics only)
Lou et al. [66] PET Judging if adjective traits are self-descriptive (Yes/No) Unspecified 47
Macrae et al. [67] fMRI See above 750 ms Near 44/45/47
Ochsner et al. [88] fMRI See above 2.2 s NO
Schmitz et al. [108] fMRI See above 4 s NO
Schmitz et al. [109] fMRI See above 4 s NO
Zhang et al. [133] fMRI Judging if adjective traits are self-descriptive (Likert scale) 3 s NO
2.5. Emotions
Table 4 reports nine studies that measured brain activity dur-
ing emotion tasks (e.g., evaluating one’s emotional response to
an auditory or visual stimulus). 77.8% of the studies (seven out of
nine) detected LIFG activation. As Ochsner et al. [89] put it, “...
the MPFC and the inferior lateral PFC might work in concert to
mediate interference between, and select the appropriate, seman-
tic description of emotional states” (p. 1750; emphasis added).
Of all the self-domains examined here, awareness of one’s emo-
tional experiences most likely requires inner speech. We suggest
that one needs to verbally label one’s current emotions in order
to accurately identify them [82]. In a typical experiment assess-
ing one’s emotional reaction to a set of pictures, it is conceivable
that participants covertly verbalized “That one feels warm, nice
colors” or “No. Too much repetition, boring”.
2.6. Evaluative judgments
Table 5 presents five studies that measured brain activity
during evaluative judgment tasks (e.g., judging if one likes or
dislikes various food items). Such tasks are self-referential in
nature because one first has to assess one’s own preferences in
order to produce a judgment. Here too it is reasonable to assume
that evaluative judgment tasks depend on inner speech. As John-
son et al. [48] suggest in their own study, “The finding in the
inferior frontal gyrus, left more than right on both the subjec-
tive [evaluative judgments] tasks relative to the [control tasks],
Table 3
Autobiography studies
Paper Imaging Self-task Time LIFG (BA)
Cabeza et al. [12] fMRI Remembering if sets of pictures where taken by participants or by others 15 s 47
Conway et al. [16] PET Generating AM following the presentation of cue words 5 s 44/45/47
Fink et al. [30] PET Listening to and visualizing personal and non-personal AM Unspecified NO
Gilboa et al. [36] fMRI Remembering the entire context (emotional, physical, cognitive) of
recent/remote personal episodes depicted in photographs of self
30 s 47
Levine et al. [62] fMRI Listening to verbal descriptions of AM Unspecified 45/47
Maguire and Mummery [69] PET Indicating if read statements representing past personal episodes (collected
earlier to scan) were participants’ own AM (Yes/No)
4s NO
Maguire et al. [70] fMRI See above 4 s NO
Maguire and Frith [68] fMRI See above 8 s 47
Piefke et al. [97] fMRI Remembering positive/negative and old/recent past personal events 30 s LIFG (BA
Piolino et al. [98] PET Verbally instructing participants to mentally relive personal episodes in
45 s 47
Ryan et al. [107] fMRI Remembering past old/recent personal events following the presentation of
20 s 47
Steinvorth et al. [120] fMRI Mentally re-experiencing autobiographical memories (AM) following the
presentation of cue words formulated by family members; participants
were asked to confirm retrieval
8 s 44/45 (remote
AM only)
392 A. Morin, J. Michaud / Brain Research Bulletin 74 (2007) 387–396
Table 4
Emotion studies
Paper Imaging Self-task Time LIFG (BA)
Critchley et al. [18] fMRI Perceiving (or not) a feedback delay of one’s heartbeat
100 ms LIFG (BA unspecified)
Goldberg et al. [38] fMRI Evaluating up to what point images and music produce an
emotional experience (High/Low)
12 s LIFG (BA unspecified)
Gusnard et al. [41] fMRI Evaluating one’s emotional responses to pictures (positive,
negative or neutral)
4100 ms LIFG (BA unspecified)
Jackson et al. [46] fMRI Imagining various levels of pain by viewing normal and
distorted limbs
3 s LIFG (BA unspecified)
Lane et al. [57] PET Evaluating one’s emotional responses to pictures (positive,
negative or neutral)
500 ms 44/45
Ochsner et al. [89] fMRI Evaluating one’s emotional responses to pictures (Likert scale) 3.5s 45
Phan et al. [96] fMRI Indicating up to what point participants emotionally associated
with pictures (Likert scale)
5s NO
Takahashi et al. [124] fMRI Judging if guilt and embarrassment are present in short
sentences (Likert scale)
4 s 47 (embarrassment only)
Taylor et al. [125] PET Rating aversive and nonaversive pictures (Likert scale) 2.8s NO
Table 5
Evaluative judgment studies
Paper Imaging Self-task Time LIFG (BA)
Johnson et al. [48] fMRI Choosing which color one prefers 4 s LIFG (BA unspecified)
Paulus and Frank [92] fMRI Determine which one of two items (e.g., drinks) one
8s NO
Seger et al. [112] fMRI Judging if one likes or dislikes food 2500 ms NO
Zysset et al. [135] fMRI Making evaluative judgments of people (e.g., Bush
is a good president) (Yes/No)
6 s 45/47
Zysset et al. [136] fMRI See above 6 s LIFG (BA unspecified)
may reflect a verbal reasoning strategy during those conditions
that may not have been employed during the [control] condi-
tion” (p. 1990; emphasis added). In our sample, three studies
out of five (60%) reported LIFG activation. For example, a par-
ticipant asked to select which of two drinks he or she prefers
may covertly verbalize “The first one is too sweet—I prefer the
second drink”.
2.7. Rest
Table 6 reports four studies that measured brain activity dur-
ing REST. Note that Laufs et al.’s experiment [58] was not
included because results are reported in terms of correlations
between fMRI activity and power in EEG bands. Greicius et
al.’s study [40] was also discarded because results are presented
in terms of functional connectivity. In a typical resting state
condition participants are simply requested to stay still and do
nothing. Although the resting state has repeatedly been used
as a control condition in neuroimaging experiments, Gusnard
et al. [41] recently proposed that REST actually represents
a particularly active state in which participants think about
their current, past, or future goals, emotions, needs, behav-
ior, physiological sensations, etc. As such, REST consists of
an introspective state that recruits most brain sites that have
also been shown to be active during self-referential tasks. In
our sample, all studies found LIFG activation. Binder et al.
[3] explicitly measured inner speech use in their study and
observed that “...conscious resting subjects frequently experi-
ence thoughts (consisting variously of mental images, auditory
verbal images, ‘ideas,’ and other similar phenomena) that are
relatively unrelated to external perceptual events. In the pilot
study conducted here, subjects reported such phenomena at the
conclusion of a 15- to 24-s period of rest on 62.8% of queries
...” (p. 85; emphasis added). Mazoyer et al. [71] and Frans-
son [33] also report inner speech use by participants in their
Table 6
REST studies
Paper Imaging Self-task Time LIFG (BA)
Binder et al. [3] fMRI Resting still with eyes closed 3 s 45
Christoff et al. [14] fMIR Unspecified 16 s 46
Fransson [33] fMRI Resting still with eyes closed 10 m 47
Mazoyer et al. [71] PET See above Unspecified 45/46
A. Morin, J. Michaud / Brain Research Bulletin 74 (2007) 387–396 393
3. Conclusion
The notion that language, and more specifically inner speech,
are an integral part of self-referential activities is both intu-
itively appealing and largely accepted in the literature (but see
[51], p. xxiii). Empirical evidence nonetheless is sparse, and
the present review provides additional (albeit indirect) support
to this hypothesis. 55.9% of the 59 studies we examined found
LIFG activity during various self-awareness tasks. We suggest
that this activity most likely consists in the use of introspec-
tive inner speech by the participants. Clearly this represents
a tentative inference that requires further corroboration given
the fact that the observed LIFG activity may reflect the use
of other processes. To the extent that LIFG activity signifies
inner speech use, our review further qualifies the hypothesis by
suggesting that inner speech is increasingly recruited as self-
information to be assessed becomes less perceptual and more
conceptual—hence, a differential involvement of inner speech
across self-domains. One persistent debate in the study of self-
awareness is the neuroanatomical localization of self-processes.
Three main views have been proposed so far: self-awareness is
mainly located (1) in the right prefrontal lobe [52], (2) in the left
hemisphere exclusively [35], and (3) in a widespread fashion
throughout the brain [127,37]. The present review strongly sug-
gests that the left prefrontal lobe plays a role in self-awareness
and thus favors the last two views.
While most current brain-imaging experiments aim at iden-
tifying the exact sites correlated to self-related activities, our
novel approach rather looks at tangential activations—the LIFG
in the present case—in order to isolate the underlying cogni-
tive processes implicated in self-awareness. We believe that this
method should be extended to include other peripheral brain
regions (e.g., occipital regions) activated during various addi-
tional self-domains (e.g., intentions), as well as to other complex
social cognitive activities—e.g., Theory-of-Mind.
Conflicts of Interest
We would like to thank Petra Kamstra, James Taylor, and Gen
Thurlow for their constructive comments on earlier versions of
this paper.
[1] D.M. Amodio, C.C. Frith, Meeting of minds: the medial frontal cor-
tex and social cognition, Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 7 (4) (2006) 268–
[2] M.V. Baciu, C. Rubin, M.A. Decorps, C.M. Segebarth, fMRI assess-
ment of hemispheric language dominance using a simple inner speech
paradigm, NMR Biomed. 12 (1999) 293–298.
[3] J.R. Binder, J.A. Frost, T.A. Hammeke, P.S.F. Bellgowan, S.M. Rao,
R.W. Cox, Conceptual processing during the conscious resting state:
A functional MRI study, J. Cogn. Neurosci. 11 (1) (1999) 80–
[4] N.J. Blackwood, R.P. Bentall, H.H. Ffytche, A. Simmons, R.M. Murray,
R.J. Howard, Persecutory delusions and the determination of self-
relevance: an fMRI investigation, Psychol. Med. 34 (2004) 591–596.
[5] M. Brass, C. Heyes, Imitation: is cognitive neuroscience solving the
correspondence problem? Trends Cogn. Sci. 9 (10) (2005) 489–495.
[6] G. Briscoe, Language, inner speech, and consciousness, in: Paper pre-
sented at the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness,
Barcelona, Spain, 2002.
[7] N. Budwig, Language and the construction of self: developmental reflec-
tions, in: N. Budwig, I.C. Uzgiris, J.V. Wertsch (Eds.), Communication:
An Arena of Development, Ablex, Stamford, 2000.
[8] N. Burgess, E.A. Maguire, H.J. Spiers, J. O’Keefe, A temporaparietal
and prefrontal network for retrieving the spatial context of lifelike events,
NeuroImage 14 (2001) 439–453.
[9] T. Burns, E. Engdahl, The social construction of consciousness Part 1:
collective consciousness and its socio-cultural foundations, J. Cons. Stud.
5 (1) (1998) 67–85.
[10] R. Cabeza, J.K. Locantore, N.D. Anderson, Lateralization of prefrontal
activity during episodic memory retrieval: evidence for the production-
monitoring hypothesis, J. Cogn. Neurosci. 15 (2) (2003) 249–259.
[11] R. Cabeza, L. Nyberg, Imaging cognition II: an empirical review of 275
PET and fMRI studies, J. Cogn. Neurosci. 12 (1) (2000) 1–47.
[12] R. Cabeza, S.E. Prince, S.M. Daselaar, D.L. Greenberg, M. Budde, F.
Dolcos, K.S. LaBar, D.C. Rubin, Brain activity during episodic retrieval
of autobiographical and laboratory events: An fMRI study using a novel
photo paradigm, J. Cogn. Neurosci. 16 (9) (2004) 1583–1594.
[13] P. Carruthers, The cognitive functions of language, Behav. Brain Sci. 25
(6) (2002) 657–674.
[14] K. Christoff, J.M. Ream, J.E.D. Gabrieli, Neural basis of spontaneous
thought processes, Cortex 40 (2004) 623–630.
[15] M.A. Conway,Memory and the Self, J Mem Lang. 53 (4) (2005) 594–628.
[16] M.A. Conway, D.J. Turk, S.L. Miller, J. Logan, R.D. Nebes, C.C. Meltzer,
J.T. Becker, A positron emission tomography (PET) study of autobio-
graphical memory retrieval, Memory 7 (1999) 679–702.
[17] F. Craik, T. Moroz, M. Moscovitch, D. Stuss, G. Winocur, E. Tulving,
S. Kapur, In search of the self: a positron emission tomography study,
Psychol. Sci. 10 (1999) 26–34.
[18] H.D. Critchley, S. Wiens, P. Rotshtein, A. Ohman, R.J. Dolan, Neural
systems supporting interoceptive awareness, Nat. Neuroci. 7 (2) (2004)
[19] A. D’Argembeau, F.Collette, M. Vander Linden, S. Laureys, G. Del Fiore,
C. Degueldre, A. Luxen, E. Salmon, Self-referential reflectiveactivity and
its relationship with rest: a PET study, NeuroImage 25 (2005) 616–624.
[20] S.M. Daselaar, D.J. Veltman, S.A.R.B. Rombouts, J.G.W. Raaijmakers,
C. Jonker, Neuroanatomical correlates of episodic encoding and retrieval
in young and elderly subjects, Brain 126 (2003) 43–56.
[21] R. De Bleser, J.C. Marshall, Egon Weigl and the concept of inner speech,
Cortex 41 (2005) 249–257.
[22] J. Decety, J. Grezes, The power of simulation: imagining one’s own and
other’s behavior, Brain Res 24 (1) (2006) 4–14.
[23] J. Decety, J.A. Sommerville, Shared representations between self and
other: a social cognitive neuroscience view, Trends Cogn. Sci. 7 (12)
(2003) 527–533.
[24] D.C. Dennett, Consciousness Explained, Little Brown, Boston, MA,
[26] M.J. Emerson, A. Miyake, The role of inner speech in task switching: A
dual-task investigation, J. Mem. Lang. 48 (2003) 148–168.
[27] L. Fadiga, L. Craighero, M.F. Destro, L. Finos, N. Cotillon-Williams,
A.T. Smith, U. Castiello, Language in shadow, Soc Neuro. 1 (2) (2006)
[28] C. Farrer, N. Franck, N. Georgieff, C.D. Frith, J. Decety, M. Jeannerod,
Modulating the experience of agency: a positron emission tomography
study, NeuroImage 18 (2003) 324–333.
[29] C. Farrer, C.D. Frith, Experiencing oneself vs. another person as being
the cause of an action: the neural correlates of the experience of agency,
NeuroImage 15 (2002) 596–603.
[30] G.R. Fink, H.J. Markowitsch, M. Reinkemeier, T. Bruckbauer, J. Kessler,
W.D. Heiss, Cerebral representation of one’s own past: Neural net-
394 A. Morin, J. Michaud / Brain Research Bulletin 74 (2007) 387–396
works involved in autobiographical memory, J. Neurosci. 16 (13) (1996)
[31] P. Fossati, S.J. Hevenor, S.J. Graham, C. Grady, M.L. Keightley, F. Craik,
H. Mayberg, In search of the emotional self: an fMRI study using posi-
tive and negative emotional words, Am. J. Psychiatry 160 (2003) 1938–
[32] P. Fossati, S.J. Hevenor, M. LePage, S.J. Graham, C. Grady, M.L.
Keightley, F.I.M. Craik, H.S. Mayberg, Distributed self in episodic
memory: neural correlates of successful retrieval of self-encoded pos-
itive and negative personality traits, NeuroImage 22 (4) (2004) 1596–
[33] P. Fransson, Spontaneous low-frequency BOLD signal fluctuations: an
fMRI investigation of the resting-state default mode of brain function
hypothesis, Hum. Brain Mapp. 26 (2005) 15–29.
[34] U. Frith, C.D. Frith, Development and neurophysiology of mentalizing,
Phil Trans Royal Soc Bio Sci. 29 (1431) (2003) 459–473.
[35] M. Gazzaniga, The bisected brain, Appleton, Century, Crofts, New York,
[36] A. Gilboa, G. Winocur, C.L. Grady, S.J. Hevenor, M. Moscovitch,
Remembering our past: functional neuroanatomy of recollection of recent
and very remote personal events, Cereb. Cortex 14 (2004) 1214–1225.
[37] S.J. Gillihan, M.J. Farah, Is self special? A critical reviewof evidence from
experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience, Psychol. Bull. 131
(2005) 76–97.
[38] I.I. Goldberg, M. Harel, R. Malach, When the brain loses its self: Pre-
frontal inactivation during sensorimotor processing, Neuron 50 (2006)
[39] D.L. Greenberg, D.C. Rubin, The neuropsychology of autobiographical
memory, Cortex 39 (4/5) (2003) 687–728.
[40] M.D. Greicius, B. Krasnow, A.L. Reiss, V. Menon, Functional connectiv-
ity in the resting brain: a network analysis of the default mode hypothesis,
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 100 (2003) 253–258.
[41] D.A. Gusnard, E. Akbudak, G.L. Shulman, M.E. Raichle, Medial pre-
frontal cortex and self-referential mental activity: relation to a default
mode of brain function, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 98 (2001)
[42] K.R. Harris, Developing self-regulated learners: the role of private speech
and self-instructions, Educ. Psychol. 25 (1) (1990) 35–49.
[43] T.F. Heatherton, C.N. Macrae, W.M. Kelley, What the social brain sci-
ences can tell us about the self, Curr. Dir. Psychol. Sci. 13 (5) (2004)
[44] T.F. Heatherton, C.L. Wyland, C.N. Macrae, K.E. Demos, B.T. Denny,
W.M. Kelley, Medial prefrontal activity differentiates self from close
others, Scan 1 (2006) 18–25.
[45] A. Heinzel, A. Walter, F. Schneider, M. Rotte, C. Matthiae, C. Tempel-
mann, H.J. Heinze, B. Bogerts, G. Northoff, Self-related processing in
the sexual domain: a parametric event-related fMRI study reveals neural
activity in ventral cortical midline structures, Soc Neuro. 1 (1) (2006)
[46] P.L. Jackson, E. Brunet, A.N. Meltzoff, J. Decety, Empathy examined
through the neural mechanisms involved in imagining how I feel versus
how you feel pain, Neuropsychologia 44 (2006) 752–761.
[47] S.C. Johnson, L.C. Baxter, L.S. Wilder, J.G. Piper, J.E. Heiserman,
G.P. Prigatano, Neural correlates of self-reflection, Brain 125 (2002)
[48] S.C. Johnson, T.W. Schimitz, T.N. Kawaraha-Baccus, H.A. Rowley, A.L.
Alexander, J. Lee, R.J. Davidson, The cerebral response during subjective
choice with and without self-reference, J. Cogn. Neurosci. 17 (2005)
[49] K.K.W. Kampe, C.D. Frith, U. Frith, “Hey John”: Signals conveying
communicative intention toward the self activate brain regions associated
with “Mentalizing,” regardless of modality, J. Neurosci. 23 (12) (2003)
[50] I.P. Kan, S.H. Thompson-Schill, Effect of name agreement on prefrontal
activity during overt and covert picture naming, Cogn. Affect. Behav.
Neurosci. 4 (1) (2004) 43–57.
[51] J.P. Keenan, D. Falk, G.G. Gallup, The Face in the Mirror: the search for
the origins of consciousness, Harper Collins Publishers, 2003.
[52] J.P. Keenan, J. Rubio, C. Racioppi, A. Johnson, A. Barnack, The
right hemisphere and the dark side of consciousness, Cortex 41 (2005)
[53] W.M. Kelly, C.N. Macrae, C.L. Wyland, S. Caglar, S. Inati, T.F. Heather-
ton, Finding the Self? An event-related fMRI study, J. Cogn. Neurosci.
14 (2002) 785–794.
[54] T.T.J. Kircher, C. Senior, E. Bullmore, P.J. Benson, A. Simmons, M. Bar-
tel, A.S. David, Towards a functional neuroanatomy of self-processing:
effects of faces and words, Cogn. Brain Res. 10 (2000) 133–144.
[55] T.T.J. Kircher, C. Senior, E. Bullmore, M.J. Brammer, P.J. Benson, A.
Simmons, M. Bartel, A.S. David, Recognising one’s own face, Cognition
78 (2001) B1–B15.
[56] T.W. Kjaer, M. Novak, H.C. Lou, Reflective self-awareness and con-
scious states: PET evidence for a common midline parietofrontal core,
NeuroImage 17 (2002) 1080–1086.
[57] R.D. Lane, G.R. Fink, P.M.l. Chau, R.J. Dolan, Neural activation dur-
ing selective attention to subjective emotional responses, NeuroReport 8
(1997) 3969–3972.
[58] H. Laufs, K. Krakow, P. Sterzer, E. Eger, A. Beyerle, A. Salek-Haddadi,
A. Kleinschmidt, Electroencephalographic signatures of attentional and
cognitive default modes in spontaneous brain activity fluctuations at rest,
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 100 (19) (2003) 11053–11058.
[59] M.R. Leary, The Curse of the Self: Self-Awareness, Egotism, and the
Quality of Human Life, Oxford University Press, 2004.
[60] D.T. Leube, G. Knoblich, M. Erb, T.T.J. Kircher, Brain networks for
identifying one’s own actions, Neuropsychologia 266–289 (2003).
[61] D.T. Leube, G. Knoblich, M. Erb, W. Grodd, M. Bartels, T.T.J. Kircher,
The neural correlates of perceiving one’s own movements, NeuroImage
20 (2003) 2084–2090.
[62] B. Levine, G.R. Turner, D. Tisserand, S.J. Hevenor, S.J. Graham, A.R.
McIntosh, The functional neuroanatomy of episodic and semantic auto-
biographical remembering: a prospective functional MRI study, J. Cogn.
Neurosci. 16 (9) (2004) 1633–1646.
[63] M.D. Lieberman, Social cognitive neuroscience: a review of core pro-
cesses, Ann. Rev. Psychol. 58 (2007) 259–289.
[64] M.D. Lieberman, J.M. Jarcho, A.B. Satpute, Evidence-based and
intuition-based self-knowledge: an fMRI study, J. Pers. Soc. Psychol.
87 (2004) 421–435.
[65] M.D. Lieberman, J.H. Pfeifer, The self and social perception: three kinds
of questions in social cognitive neuroscience, in: A. Easton, N. Emery
(Eds.), Cognitive Neuroscience of Emotional and Social Behavior, Psy-
chology Press, Philadelphia, 2005, pp. 195–235.
[66] H.C. Lou, B. Luber, M. Crupain, J.P. Keenan, M. Novak, T.W. Kjaer,H.A.
Sackeim, S.H. Lisaby, Parietal cortex and representation of the mental
self, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 101 (2004) 6827–6832.
[67] C.N. Macrae, J.M. Moran, T.F. Heatherton, J.F. Banfield, W.M. Kelley,
Medial prefrontal activity predicts memory for self, Cereb. Cortex 14
(2004) 647–654.
[68] E.A. Maguire, C.D. Frith, Aging affects the engagement of the hippocam-
pus during autobiographical memory retrieval, Brain 126 (1) (2003) 1–13.
[69] E.A. Maguire, C.J. Mummery, Differential modulation of a common
memory retrieval network revealed by positron emission tomography,
Hippocampus 9 (1) (1999) 54–61.
[70] E.A. Maguire, C.J. Mummery, C. Buchel, Patterns of
hippocampal–cortical interaction dissociate temporal lobe memory
subsystems, Hippocampus 10 (4) (2000) 475–482.
[71] B. Mazoyer, L. Zago, E. Mellet, S. Bricogne, O. Etard, O. Houde, F.
Crivello, M. Joliot, L. Petit, N. Tzourio-Mazoyer, Cortical networks for
working memory and executive functions sustain the conscious resting
state in man, Brain Res. Bull. 54 (3) (2001) 287–298.
[72] P.A. McDonald, T. Paus, The role of parietal cortex in awareness of self-
generated movements: a transcranial magnetic stimulation study, Cereb.
Cortex 13 (2003) 962–967.
[73] P.K. McGuire, D.A. Silbersweig, D.A. Frith, Functional neuroanatomy
of verbal self-monitoring, Brain 119 (1996) 907–917.
[74] P.K. McGuire, D.A. Silbersweig, R.M. Murray, A.S. David, R.S.J. Frack-
owiak, C.D. Frith, Functional anatomy of inner speech and auditory verbal
imagery, Psychol. Med. 26 (1996) 29–38.
A. Morin, J. Michaud / Brain Research Bulletin 74 (2007) 387–396 395
[75] P.K. McGuire, D.A. Silbersweig, I. Wright, R.M. Murray, R.S.J. Frack-
owiak, C.D. Frith, The neural correlates of inner speech and auditory
verbal imagery in schizophrenia: relationship to auditory verbal halluci-
nations, Br. J. Psychol. 169 (2) (1996) 148–159.
[76] J.A. Meacham, The role of verbal activity in remembering the goals of
actions, in: G. Zivin (Ed.), The Development of Self-Regulation Through
Private Speech, Wiley, New York, 1979.
[77] G.H. Mead, The mechanism of social consciousness, in: A.J. Reck (Ed.),
Selected writings: George Herbert Mead, University of Chicago Press,
Chicago, 1912/1964.
[78] A. Miyake, M.J. Emerson, F.Padilla, J.-C. Ahn, Inner speech as a retrieval
aid for task goals: the effects of cue type and articulatory suppression
in the random task cuing paradigm, Acta Psychol. 115 (2004) 123–
[79] Y. Moriguchi, J. Decety, T. Ohnishi, M. Maeda, T. Mori, K. Nemoto, H.
Matsuda, G. Komaki, Empathy and judging other’s pain: an fMRI study
of alexithymia, Cereb. Cortex 5 (2006) 1047–3211.
[80] A. Morin, Imagery and self-awareness: a theoretical note, Theory Rev.
Psychol. (1998) [Electronic journal].
[81] A. Morin, A neurocognitive and socioecological model of self-awareness,
Genet. Soc. Gen. Psychol. Monogr. 130 (3) (2004) 197–222.
[82] A. Morin, Possible links between self-awareness and inner speech: the-
oretical background, underlying mechanisms, and empirical evidence, J
Cons. Stud. 12 (4/5) (2005) 115–134.
[83] A. Morin, Inner speech. Invited paper for the 2006 Oxford Companion to
Consciousness, in press.
[84] K. Nelson, Emerging levels of consciousness in early human devel-
opment, in: H.S. Terrace, J. Metcalfe (Eds.), The Missing Link in
Cognition: Origins of Self-Reflective Consciousness, Oxford University
Press, Oxford, 2005.
[85] S.F. Nolde, M.K. Johnson, M. D’Esposito, Left prefrontal activation dur-
ing episodic remembering: an event-related fMRI study, NeuroReport 9
(1998) 3509–3514.
[86] G. Northoff, F. Bermpohl, Cortical midline structures and the self, Trends
Cogn. Sci. 8 (3) (2004) 102–107.
[87] G. Northoff, A. Heinzel, M. de Greck, F. Bermpohl, H. Dobrowolny,
J. Panksepp, Self-referential processing in our brain: a meta-analysis of
imaging studies on the self, Neuroimage 15 (1) (2006) 440–457.
[88] K.N. Ochsner, J.S. Beer, E.R. Robertson, J.C. Cooper, J.D. Gabrieli, J.F.
Kihsltrom, M. D’Esposito, The neural correlates of direct and reflected
self-knowledge, Neuroimage 28 (4) (2005) 797–814.
[89] K.N. Ochsner, K. Knierim, D.H. Ludlow, J. Hanelin, T. Ramachandran, J.
Glover, S.C. Mackey, Reflecting upon Feelings: an fMRI study of neural
systems supporting the attribution of emotion to self and other, J. Cogn.
Neurosci. 16 (2004) 1746–1772.
[90] G. Ojemann, Brain mechanisms for consciousness and conscious experi-
ence, Can. Psych./Psyc. Can. 27 (2) (1986) 158–168.
[91] M. Overgaard, M. Koivisto, T.A. Sorensen, S. Vangkilde, A. Revonsuo,
The electrophysiology of introspection, Conscious Cogn. 15 (4) (2006)
[92] M.P. Paulus, L.R. Frank, Ventromedial prefrontal cortex activation is
critical for preference judgments, Brain Imaging 14 (10) (2003) 1311–
[93] E. Paulesu, C.D. Frith, R.S.J. Frackowiak, The neural correlates of the
verbal component of working memory, Nature 362 (1993) 342–345.
[94] E. Paulesu, B. Goldacre, P. Scifo, S.F. Cappa, M.C. Gilardi, I. Castiglioni,
D. Perani, F. Fazio, Functional heterogeneity of left inferior frontal cortex
as revealed by fMRI, NeuroReport 8 (1997) 2011–2016.
[95] F. Perrin, P. Maquet, P. Peigneux, P. Ruby, C. Degueldre, E. Balteau,
G. Del Fiore, G. Moonen, A. Luxen, S. Laureys, Neural mechanisms
involved in the detection of our first name: a combined ERPs and PET
study, Neuropsychologia 43 (2005) 12–19.
[96] K.L. Phan, S.F. Taylor, R.C. Welsh, S.H. Ho, J.C. Britton, I. Liberzon,
Neural correlates of individual ratings of emotional salience: a trial-
related fMRI study, NeuroImage 21 (2004) 768–780.
[97] M. Piefke, P.H. Weiss, K. Zilles, H.J. Markowitsch, G.R. Fink, Differ-
ential remoteness and emotional tone modulate the neural correlates of
autobiographical memory, Brain 126 (2003) 650–668.
[98] P. Piolino, G. Giffard-Quillon, B. Desgranges, G. Chetelat, J.C. Baron,
F. Eustache, Re-experiencing old memories via hippocampus: a PET
study of autobiographical memory, NeuroImage 22 (2004) 1371–
[99] S.M. Platek, J.P. Keenan, G.G. Gallup, F.B. Mohamed, Where am I? The
neurological correlates of self and other, Cogn. Brain Res. 19 (2004)
[100] S.M. Platek, J.W. Loughead, R.C. Gur, S. Busch, K. Ruparel, N. Phend,
I.S. Panyavin, D.D. Langleben, Neural substrates for functionally dis-
criminating self-face from personally familiar faces, Hum. Brain Mapp.
27 (2) (2006) 91–98.
[101] R.A. Poldrack, Can cognitive processes be inferred from neuroimaging
data? Trends Cogn. Sci. 10 (2) (2006) 59–63.
[102] R.A. Poldrack, A.D. Wagner, What can neuroimaging tell us about the
mind? Insights from prefrontal cortex, Curr. Dir. Psychol. Sci. 13 (2004)
[103] K.R. Popper, J.C. Eccles, The Self and Its Brain: An Argument for Inter-
actionism, Springer International, Berlin, 1977.
[104] R.N. Roberts, Private speech in academic problem-solving: a naturalis-
tic perspective, in: G. Zivin (Ed.), The Development of Self-Regulation
Through Private Speech, Wiley, New York, 1979.
[105] P. Ruby, J. Decety, Effect of subjective perspective taking during simula-
tion of action: a PET investigation of agency, Nat. Neurosci. 4 (5) (2001)
[106] M.N. Rusalova, Characteristics of Interhemisphere Interactions at Dif-
ferent Levels of Consciousness, Neurosci. Behav. Physiol. 35 (8) (2005)
[107] L. Ryan, L. Nadel, K. Keil, K. Putnam, D. Schnyer, T. Trouard, M.
Moscovitch, Hippocampal complex and retrieval of recent and very
remote autobiographical memories: evidence from functional magnetic
resonance imaging in neurologically intact people, Hippocampus 11
(2001) 707–714.
[108] T.W. Schmitz, T.N. Kawahara-Baccus,S.C. Johnson, Metacognitive eval-
uation, self-relevance, and the right prefrontal cortex, NeuroImage 22
(2004) 941–947.
[109] T.W. Schmitz, H.A. Rowley, T.N. Kawahara, S.C. Johnson, Neural
correlates of self-evaluative accuracy after traumatic brain injury, Neu-
ropsychologia 44 (2006) 762–773.
[110] J.F. Schneider, M. Pospeschill, J. Ranger, Self-consciousness as a medi-
ator between self-talk and self-knowledge, Psychol. Rep. 96 (2005)
[111] R.W. Schrauf, Bilingual inner speech as the medium of cross-modular
retrieval in autobiographical memory, Behav. Brain Sci. 25 (2002)
[112] C.A. Seger, M. Stone, J.P. Keenan, Cortical activations during judg-
ment about the self and an other person, Neuropsychologia 42 (2004)
[113] T. Shallice, Theory of mind and the prefrontal cortex, Brain 124 (2001)
[114] S.S. Shergill, M.J. Brammer, R. Fukuda, S.C.R. Williams, R.M. Murray,
P.K. McGuire, Engagement of brain areas implicated in processing inner
speech in people with auditory hallucinations, Br. J. Psychol. 182 (2003)
[115] Shi-xu, Mind, self, and consciousness as discourse, New Ideas Psychol.
24 (1) (2006) 63–81.
[116] M. Siegrist, Inner speech as a cognitive process mediating self-
consciouness and inhibiting self-deception, Psychol. Rep. 76 (1995)
[117] A.N. Sokolov,Inner Speech and Thought, Plenum Press, New York, 1972.
[118] M. Stamenov, Language and self-consciousness: modes of self-
presentation in language structure, in: T. Kircher, A. David (Eds.), The
Self in Neuroscience and Psychiatry, Cambridge University Press, Cam-
bridge, 2003.
[119] L. Steels, Language re-entrance and the inner voice, J. Cons. Stud. 10
(4/5) (2003) 173–185.
[120] S. Steinvorth, S. Corkin, E. Halgren, Ecphory of autobiographical mem-
ories: an fMRI study of recent and remote memory retrieval, Neuroimage
30 (1) (2006) 285–298.
396 A. Morin, J. Michaud / Brain Research Bulletin 74 (2007) 387–396
[121] M. Sugiura, R. Kawashima, K. Nakamura, K. Okada, T. Kato, A. Naka-
mura, K. Hatano, K. Itoh, S. Kojima, H. Fukuda, Passive and active
recognition of one’s own face, NeuroImage 11 (2000) 36–48.
[122] M. Sugiura, J. Wanabe, Y. Maeda, Y.H. Fukuda, R. Kawashima, Cortical
mechanisms of visual self-recognition, Neuroimage 24 (2005) 143–149.
[123] E. Svoboda, M.C. McKinnon, B. Levine, The functional neuroanatomy
of autobiographical memory: a meta-analysis, Neuropsychologia 44 (12)
(2006) 2189–2208.
[124] H. Takahashi, N. Yahata, M. Koeda, T. Matsuda, K. Asai, Y. Okubo,
Brain activation associated with evaluative processes of guilt and embar-
rassment: an fMRI study, NeuroImage 23 (2004) 967–974.
[125] S.F.Taylor, K.L. Phan, L.R. Decker,I. Liberzon, Subjective rating of emo-
tionally salient stimuli modulates neural activity, NeuroImage 18 (2003)
[126] D.J. Turk, T.F. Heatherton, W.M. Kelley, M.G. Funnell, M.S. Gazzaniga,
C.N. Macrea, Mike or me? Self-recognition in a split-brain patient, Nat.
Neurosci. 5 (2002) 841–842.
[127] D.J. Turk, T.F. Heatherton, C.N. Macrae, W.M. Kelley, M.S. Gazzaniga,
Out of Contact, Out of Mind: The Distributed Nature of the Self, Ann. N
Y Acad. Sci. 1001 (2003) 1–14.
[128] L.Q. Uddin, J. Rayman, E. Zaidel, Split-brain reveals separate but equal
self-recognition in the two cerebral hemispheres, Conscious Cogn. 14 (3)
(2005) 633–640.
[129] P. Verstichel, C. Bourak, V. Font, G. Crochet, Langage int´
erieur apr`
esion c´
ebrale gauche: Etude de la repr´
esentation phonologique des
mots chez des patients aphasiques et non aphasiques [Inner speech and
left brain damage: study of the phonological analysis of words in apha-
sic and non-aphasic patients], Revue de Neuropsyc. 7 (3) (1997) 281–
[130] A.J.O. Whitehouse, M.T. Maybery, K. Durkin, Inner speech impairments
in autism, J. Child Psychol. Psychiatry 47 (8) (2006) 857–865.
[131] B. Wicker, P. Ruby, J.P. Royet, P. Fonlupt, A relation between rest and
the self in the brain? Brain Res. Rev. 43 (2003) 224–230.
[132] M. Wraga, J.M. Shephard, J.A. Church, S. Inati, S.M. Kosslyn, Imagined
rotations of self versus objects: an fMRI study, Neuropsychologia 43 (9)
(2005) 1351–1361.
[133] L. Zhang, T. Zhou, J. Zhang, Z. Liu, J. Fan, Y. Zhu, In search of the
Chinese self: an fMRI study, Sci. in China: Ser. C Life Sci. 49 (1) (2006)
[134] G. Zivin, Removing common confusions about egocentric speech, private
speech, and self-regulation, in: G. Zivin (Ed.), The development of self-
regulation through private speech, Wiley, New York, 1979.
[135] S. Zysset, O. Huber, E. Fersti, D.Y. Von Cramon, The anterior fronto-
median cortex and evaluative judgment: an fMRI study, NeuroImage 15
(2002) 983–991.
[136] S. Zysset, O. Huber, A. Samson, E. Fersti, D.Y. Von Cramon, Functional
specialization within the anterior medial prefrontal cortex: a functional
magnetic resonance imaging study with human subjects, Neurosci. Lett.
335 (2003) 183–186.
... The goal of these methodologies is to evaluate how often inner speech occurs across some timeframe (e.g., the last week), for what reasons, and in what contexts. Research in non-braindamaged adults suggests inner speech frequency ranges from 0-75% of sampled instances (Hurlburt et al., 2016); is used for a variety of functions, including problem-solving (Wallace et al., 2017), self-awareness (Morin, 2011b(Morin, , 2011a and emotion regulation (Morin & Michaud, 2007), and varies by context (e.g., may be more present during cognitively difficult scenarios) (Morin et al., 2018;Racy et al., 2020). A benefit to this way of measuring inner speech is these methods have high face validity for how inner speech is perceived in everyday life. ...
... Understanding how inner speech relates to severity when it is measured differently has downstream implications for more comprehensive study of inner speech in aphasia. It is important to evaluate the relationship of aphasia severity and inner speech, as aphasia severity is related to quality of life and participation (Williamson et al., 2011), and inner speech is likely related to quality-of-life factors, such as self-awareness (Morin, 2009(Morin, , 2011Morin & Michaud, 2007) and psychological distress (Heavey & Hurlburt, 2008). By evaluating how aphasia severity is related to inner speech, we can gain insight into the mechanisms behind changes in self-awareness and psychological health with aphasia. ...
... Inner speech throughout daily life, measured by some of our subjective general questions, relates to work by Morin and colleagues on the relationship between inner narrative and extra-linguistic processes such as self-regulation and problem-solving (Morin, 2011a;Morin & Michaud, 2007), which are likely less related to aphasia severity. The differences in the condensation and intentionality dimensions may contribute to the results which indicate that there are not strong relationships between the subjective, general methods of measuring inner speech and how they relate to aphasia severity. ...
... Exploratory whole-brain analyses showed that BOLD activity in a cluster of voxels largely comprised of the left inferior frontal gyrus (Table 4; Figure 2C) was related to children's CDI scores during the maternal praise condition. Specifically, while listening to maternal praise, children with higher self-reported depressive symptoms had greater BOLD activity within a portion of the left inferior frontal gyrus, a region previously implicated in language comprehension (Liakakis et al., 2011) and inner dialog (Morin & Hamper, 2012;Morin & Michaud, 2007). No other significant voxel clusters were identified using whole-brain analyses. ...
... In addition to its primary role in speech, and like many other regions in the brain, numerous other functional roles have been suggested for the left inferior frontal gyrus (e.g., language processing, working memory, fine motor control, empathy; Liakakis et al., 2011). Some research (Morin & Hamper, 2012;Morin & Michaud, 2007) indicates that the left inferior frontal gyrus is activated during self-reflection tasks due to the private, internal dialog that occurs when processing abstract information related to the self (e.g., emotions, personality, etc.). The valenced MFC stimuli children heard while in the scanner (i.e., personalized maternal praise and criticism directed toward children) may account for the activation of the left inferior frontal gyrus; however, why this activity was related to children's depressive symptoms is unclear. ...
Full-text available
Caregiving experiences are implicated in children’s depression risk; however, children’s neural reactivity to positive and negative feedback from mothers, a potential mediator of depression risk, is poorly understood. In a sample of 81 children ( M age = 11.12 years, SD age = 0.63), some of whom were recruited based on a maternal history of depression ( n = 29), we used fMRI to characterize children’s neural responses to maternal praise and criticism. Maternal history of depression was unrelated to children’s brain activity during both the praise and criticism conditions; however, ROI analyses showed that children’s self-reported depressive symptoms were negatively associated with functional activity in the left anterior insula and right putamen while hearing maternal criticism. Whole-brain analyses showed that children’s depressive symptoms were positively associated with left inferior frontal gyrus activity while listening to maternal praise. These findings complement past work implicating these brain regions in the processing of emotionally salient stimuli, reward processing, and internal speech. Given associations between early depressive symptoms and later disorder, findings suggest that maladaptive neural processing of maternal feedback may contribute to children’s early emerging risk for depression.
... Некоторые авторы, однако, считают, что вентральная и дорзальная МПК не столько различают «Я» и другие, сколько имеет, или не имеет информация отношение к текущему заданию (Cook, 2014;Nicolle et al., 2012). Кроме того, многочисленные исследования показывают, что задачи на различение «Я» и другие активируют большое количество структур мозга за пределами МПК и ССМ, такие, как вентро-и дорсолатеральная префронтальная кора, височная и височно-теменная кора (Morin and Michaud, 2007;Northoff et al., 2006;Vanderwal et al., 2008). Открытие так называемых сетей покоя (Biswal et al., 1995) подняло вопрос о том, как эти сети участвуют в обработке информации, имеющей отношение к «Я». ...
Full-text available
What is the meaning of life? What is the nature of the human mind, love, morality? All of these questions tend to be answered and explained in "natural science" terms. Life arose out of inanimate nature by random physical and chemical factors and one should hardly look for any sense in it; man is the product of natural selection and reason, love and morality, are the result of chemical and electrical processes in the brain. Since these questions are among the most important for human beings, due to the unquestionable authority of the natural sciences, the proposed answers can and already do have a major impact on all areas of human life, from economics and politics to mental health and the subjective well-being of the individual. Does this perception of the world and one's place in it make one happy? Sociological studies clearly say no. Adherents of this worldview, however, argue that no matter how unpleasant it may seem, one should have the courage to accept it, because it is consistent with the scientific evidence. But is this true? Does the modern scientific picture of the world really allow for all these far-reaching conclusions? People who are professionally involved in science know that it almost never provides answers to worldview questions. All empirical facts and scientific theories can be interpreted in different ways and the choice of one interpretation or another is largely determined by one's worldview position, not vice versa. Although the book is called "Worldview Problems of Neuroscience", and most of it is indeed devoted to neuroscientific problems and their philosophical interpretation, it deals with a wider range of questions, which form the basis of the worldview of most modern people. Author tries to understand whether the reductionist materialistic worldview that dominates today, especially in the neurosciences, is really capable of plausibly explaining the current evidence about the nature of the relationship between mental processes and the physical world. The book concludes by outlining modern philosophical positions alternative to orthodox physicalism and tries to summarize them in a unified system.
... The functional role of the cerebellum is postulated to be the prediction of social action sequences (social sequencing hypothesis) [51]. The left IFG is not part of the mentalizing network or the DMN but is associated with semantic memory retrieval [52,53], social knowledge [54], personality traits [55], and inner speech [56]. Thus, the left IFG is a vital region functionally located at the intersection of language and social roles [57]. ...
Full-text available
Conversation enables the sharing of our subjective experiences through verbalizing introspected thoughts and feelings. The mentalizing network represents introspection, and successful conversation is characterized by alignment through imitation mediated by the mirror neuron system (MNS). Therefore, we hypothesized that the interaction between the mentalizing network and MNS mediates the conversational exchange of introspection. To test this, we performed hyperscanning functional magnetic resonance imaging during structured real-time conversations between 19 pairs of healthy participants. The participants first evaluated their preference for and familiarity with a presented object and then disclosed it. The control was the object feature identification task. When contrasted with the control, the preference/familiarity evaluation phase activated the dorso-medial prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, precuneus, left hippocampus, right cerebellum, and orbital portion of the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), which represents introspection. The left IFG was activated when the two participants’ statements of introspection were mismatched during the disclosure. Disclosing introspection enhanced the functional connectivity of the left IFG with the bilateral superior temporal gyrus and primary motor cortex, representing the auditory MNS. Thus, the mentalizing system and MNS are hierarchically linked in the left IFG during a conversation, allowing for the sharing of introspection of the self and others.
... Namely, the social nature of language that allows us to reason about others' minds, when turned in on the self, allows us to have thoughts about the self. The psychologist Alain Morin has long insisted on a perspective like this (Morin, 2011(Morin, , 2009(Morin, , 2006(Morin, , 2005(Morin, , 2001(Morin, , 1993Morin and Everett, 1990;Morin and Michaud, 2007): ...
Full-text available
Most research on the neurobiology of language ignores consciousness and vice versa. Here, language, with an emphasis on inner speech, is hypothesised to generate and sustain self-awareness, i.e., higher-order consciousness. Converging evidence supporting this hypothesis is reviewed. To account for these findings, a ‘HOLISTIC’ model of neurobiology of language, inner speech, and consciousness is proposed. It involves a ‘core’ set of inner speech production regions that initiate the experience of feeling and hearing words. These take on affective qualities, deriving from activation of associated sensory, motor, and emotional representations, involving a largely unconscious dynamic ‘periphery’, distributed throughout the whole brain. Responding to those words forms the basis for sustained network activity, involving ‘default mode’ activation and prefrontal and thalamic/brainstem selection of contextually relevant responses. Evidence for the model is reviewed, supporting neuroimaging meta-analyses conducted, and comparisons with other theories of consciousness made. The HOLISTIC model constitutes a more parsimonious and complete account of the ‘neural correlates of consciousness’ that has implications for a mechanistic account of mental health and wellbeing.
... The Self-centred model described before posits that, due to the synchronized mechanisms of perception, proprioception, interoception, and processing in the Mirror neuron system and Default Mode Network (DMN), a human has a biologically determined notion about the existence of his Self as an actor in the environment, and that this is of fundamental importance for the language faculty. With relation to the "language of thought", contemporary results (Morin, & Michaud 2007) show that brain activity in the self-relating domains of agency, self-recognition, emotions, resting state, etc., causes inner speech. Following the analysis presented in the previous parts, concept formation starts at the perceptual and emotional levels, where meaning is assigned in active interaction with the revelations of the world as regards their importance for the Subject. ...
Full-text available
This book brings together key theories and results from the fields of linguistics, cognition, and psychology to build a model of how information is acquired and organized in biological systems. The model, based on results in mathematics, relates acquired and classified information to principles of optimal use of biological and energy resources. Empirical verification of the model through statistical analysis of children's speech leads to a representation of the acquisition of English and French as the same process. This empirical confirmation links children's linguistic expression presented in terms of processing complexity to their increasing cognitive abilities. To the best of my knowledge, there are no approaches to date that combine in a single model the emergence and classification of information, optimality principles, and language acquisition in order to account for language production as correlated with and constrained by cognitive abilities.
... Inner speech, and thus inner narration, develops in late childhood (Alderson-Day and Fernyhough 2015;Fernyhough 2017;Geva and Fernyhough 2019). It plays an important role in metacognition, self-awareness, and self-understanding (Siegrist 1995;Morin and Michaud 2007), as well as creativity (Fernyhough et al. 2008;Langdon et al. 2009), and social understanding (Perrone-Bertolotti et al. 2012;Davis et al. 2013;Alderson-Day and Fernyhough 2014). Inner narration is commonly used when thinking back or forward in time. ...
Full-text available
We often use inner narration when thinking about past and future events. The present paradigm explicitly addresses the influence of the language used in inner narration on the hippocampus-dependent event construction process. We assessed the language context effect during the inner narration of different event types: past, future, daydream, and self-unrelated fictitious events. The language context was assessed via a fluent bilingual population who used inner narration, either in their first language (L1) or second language (L2). Not all inner narration of events elicited hippocampo-cortical activity. In fact, only the angular gyrus and precuneus-retrosplenial cortex were activated by inner narration across all event types. More precisely, only inner narration of events which entailed the simulation of bodily self-location in space (whether or not they were time-marked: past, future, daydream) depended on the hippocampo-cortical system, while inner narration of events that did not entail bodily self-location (self-unrelated fictitious) did not. The language context of the narration influenced the bilinguals' hippocampo-cortical system by enhancing the co-activation of semantic areas with the hippocampus for inner narration of events in the L2. Overall, this study highlights 2 important characteristics of hippocampo-cortical-dependent inner narration of events: The core episodic hippocampal system is activated for inner narration of events simulating self-location in space (regardless of time-marking), and the inner language used for narration (L1 or L2) mediates hippocampal functional connectivity.
... Subcortical regions are also implicated in social threat processing. For example, the putamen, is involved with evaluation, learning, and memory of threatening situations (Greenberg et al., 2005;Lago et al., 2017;Morin and Michaud, 2007), the amygdala is involved in threat detection (Nitschke, 2009), and the anterior hippocampus is involved in threat generalization (Bannerman et al., 2004;Straube et al., 2009) and harm avoidance (Yamasue et al., 2008). Some studies demonstrate that females have greater neural engagement to social threat (threatening faces: (McClure et al., 2004); viewing words about relationship conflict: (Shirao et al., 2005) in frontal and striatal regions. ...
Full-text available
Adolescent males and females differ in their responses to social threat. Yet, threat processing is often probed in non-social contexts using the error-related negativity (ERN; Flanker EEG Task), which does not yield sex-specific outcomes. fMRI studies show inconsistent patterns of sex-specific neural engagement during threat processing. Thus, the relation between threat processing in non-social and social contexts across sexes and the effects perceived level of threat on brain function are unclear. We tested the interactive effect of non-social threat-vigilance (ERN), sex (N=69; Male=34; 11-14-year-olds), and perceived social threat on brain function while anticipating feedback from ‘unpredictable’, ‘nice’, or ‘mean’ purported peers (fMRI; Virtual School Paradigm). Whole-brain analyses revealed differential engagement of precentral and inferior frontal gyri, putamen, anterior cingulate cortex, and insula. Among males with more threat-vigilant ERNs, greater social threat was associated with increased activation when anticipating unpredictable feedback. Region of interest analyses revealed this same relation in females in the amygdala and anterior hippocampus when anticipating mean feedback. Thus, non-social threat vigilance relates to neural engagement depending on perceived social threat, but peer-based social contexts and brain regions engaged, differ across sexes. This may partially explain divergent psychosocial outcomes in adolescence.
Full-text available
Due to its central role in cognitive control, the dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) has been the target of multiple brain modulation studies. In the context of the present pilot study, the dlPFC was the target of 8 repeated neurofeedback (NF) sessions with functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to assess the brain response during NF and with functional and resting state magnetic resonance imaging (task-based fMRI and rsMRI) scanning. Fifteen healthy participants were recruited. Cognitive task fMRI and rsMRI were performed during the 1st and the 8th NF sessions. During NF, our data revealed an increased activity in the dlPFC as well as in brain regions involved in cognitive control and self-regulation learning (pFWE < 0.05). Changes in functional connectivity between the 1st and the 8th session revealed increased connectivity between the posterior cingulate cortex and the dlPFC, and between the posterior cingulate cortex and the dorsal striatum (pFWE < 0.05). Decreased left dlPFC-left insula connectivity was also observed. Behavioural results revealed a significant effect of hunger and motivation on the participant control feeling and a lower control feeling when participants did not identify an effective mental strategy, providing new insights on the effects of behavioural factors that may affect the NF learning.
The chapter distinguishes between two types of intelligence in human and nonhuman primates. Psychology is the only life science that has yet to assimilate the theory of evolution. During the last thirty years, much evidence has accumulated that animals can perform complicated tasks that cannot be explained by the principles of conditioning and that do not rise to the level of language. The chapter concludes that the gap between animal and human intelligence is less mysterious once the significance of self-recognizing consciousness is viewed as a critical step in the evolution of human intelligence. It shows how natural selection can provide a plausible explanation of the necessary conditions for the origin of language. Since Descartes, language has been the main basis for distinguishing between human and nonhuman animals. However before language evolved, our ancestors had to develop nonverbal skills for reading another individual's mind.
Human beings are unique in their ability to think consciously about themselves. Because they have a capacity for self-awareness not shared by other animals, people can imagine themselves in the future, anticipate consequences, plan ahead, improve themselves, and perform many other behaviors that are uniquely characteristic of human beings. Yet, despite the obvious advantages of self-reflection, the capacity for self-thought comes at a high price as people's lives are adversely affected and their inner chatter interferes with their success, pollutes their relationships, and undermines their happiness. Indeed, self-relevant thought is responsible for most of the personal and social difficulties that human beings face as individuals and as a species. Among other things, the capacity for self-reflection distorts people's perceptions, leading them to make bad decisions based on faulty information. The self conjures up a great deal of personal suffering in the form of depression, anxiety, anger, envy, and other negative emotions by allowing people to ruminate about the past or imagine the future. Egocentrism and egotism blind people to their own shortcomings, promote self-serving biases, and undermine their relationships with others. The ability to self-reflect also underlies social conflict by leading people to separate themselves into ingroups and outgroups. Ironically, many sources of personal unhappiness - such as addictions, overeating, unsafe sex, infidelity, and domestic violence - are due to people's inability to exert self-control. For those inclined toward religion and spirituality, visionaries throughout history have proclaimed that the egoic self stymies the quest for spiritual fulfillment and leads to immoral behavior.
The capacity to reflect on one’s sense of self is an important component of self‐awareness. In this paper, we investigate some of the neurocognitive processes underlying reflection on the self using functional MRI. Eleven healthy volunteers were scanned with echoplanar imaging using the blood oxygen level‐dependent contrast method. The task consisted of aurally delivered statements requiring a yes–no decision. In the experimental condition, participants responded to a variety of statements requiring knowledge of and reflection on their own abilities, traits and attitudes (e.g. ‘I forget important things’, ‘I’m a good friend’, ‘I have a quick temper’). In the control condition, participants responded to statements requiring a basic level of semantic knowledge (e.g. ‘Ten seconds is more than a minute’, ‘You need water to live’). The latter condition was intended to control for auditory comprehension, attentional demands, decision‐making, the motoric response, and any common retrieval processes. Individual analyses revealed consistent anterior medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate activation for all participants. The overall activity for the group, using a random‐effects model, occurred in anterior medial prefrontal cortex ( t = 13.0, corrected P = 0.05; x , y , z , 0, 54, 8, respectively) and the posterior cingulate ( t = 14.7, P = 0.02; x , y , z , –2, –62, 32, respectively; 967 voxel extent). These data are consistent with lesion studies of impaired awareness, and suggest that the medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortex are part of a neural system subserving self‐reflective thought.
UI - 22758841DA - 20030723IS - 0959-4965LA - engPT - Journal ArticleSB - IM