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Why People Are Always Thinking about Themselves: Medial Prefrontal Cortex Activity during Rest Primes Self-referential Processing

Why People Are Always Thinking about Themselves: Medial Prefrontal Cortex Activity during Rest... Humans have a tendency to think about themselves. What generates this self-focus? One clue may come from the observation that the same part of the brain that supports self-reflection—the medial pFC (MPFC/Brodmann's area 10 [BA 10])—also spontaneously engages by default whenever the brain is free from external demands to attention. Here, we test the possibility that the default tendency to engage MPFC/BA 10 primes self-referential thinking. Participants underwent fMRI while alternating between brief periods of rest and experimental tasks in which they thought about their own traits, another person's traits, or another location's traits. Greater default engagement in MPFC/BA 10 during momentary breaks preferentially facilitated task performance on subsequent self-reflection trials on a moment-to-moment basis. These results suggest that reflexively engaging MPFC/BA 10 by default may nudge self-referential thinking, perhaps explaining why humans think about themselves so readily. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience MIT Press

Why People Are Always Thinking about Themselves: Medial Prefrontal Cortex Activity during Rest Primes Self-referential Processing

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Publisher
MIT Press
Copyright
© 2018 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
ISSN
0898-929X
eISSN
1530-8898
DOI
10.1162/jocn_a_01232
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Humans have a tendency to think about themselves. What generates this self-focus? One clue may come from the observation that the same part of the brain that supports self-reflection—the medial pFC (MPFC/Brodmann's area 10 [BA 10])—also spontaneously engages by default whenever the brain is free from external demands to attention. Here, we test the possibility that the default tendency to engage MPFC/BA 10 primes self-referential thinking. Participants underwent fMRI while alternating between brief periods of rest and experimental tasks in which they thought about their own traits, another person's traits, or another location's traits. Greater default engagement in MPFC/BA 10 during momentary breaks preferentially facilitated task performance on subsequent self-reflection trials on a moment-to-moment basis. These results suggest that reflexively engaging MPFC/BA 10 by default may nudge self-referential thinking, perhaps explaining why humans think about themselves so readily.

Journal

Journal of Cognitive NeuroscienceMIT Press

Published: May 1, 2018

References