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What Can the Organization of the Brain's Default Mode Network Tell us About Self-Knowledge?

Moran JM, Kelley WM, Heatherton TF - Front Hum Neurosci (2013)

Bottom Line: The brain regions most associated with self-reflection are the posterior cingulate and medial prefrontal (mPFC) cortices, together known as the cortical midline structures (CMSs).Third, mPFC may serve as a cortical director of thought, helping to guide moment-by-moment conscious processing.Suggestions are made for future research avenues aimed at testing such possibilities.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center , Natick, MA , USA ; Center for Brain Science, Harvard University , Cambridge, MA , USA.

ABSTRACT
Understanding ourselves has been a fundamental topic for psychologists and philosophers alike. In this paper we review the evidence linking specific brain structures to self-reflection. The brain regions most associated with self-reflection are the posterior cingulate and medial prefrontal (mPFC) cortices, together known as the cortical midline structures (CMSs). We review evidence arguing that self-reflection is special in memory, while noting that these brain regions are often engaged when we think about others in our social worlds. Based on the CMSs' patterns of connectivity and activity, we speculate about three possible interpretations of their role in supporting self-reflection that are somewhat overlapping, and not intended to be mutually exclusive. First, self may be a powerful, but ordinary case for a cognitive system specialized for thinking about people. Second, mPFC may serve as a processing "hub," binding together information from all sensory modalities with internally generated information. Third, mPFC may serve as a cortical director of thought, helping to guide moment-by-moment conscious processing. Suggestions are made for future research avenues aimed at testing such possibilities.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Schematic representation of three possible distinct, but not mutually exclusive models of cortical midline structure (CMS) function. Top left: the CMS are specialized for representing social information, of which the self is a powerful-but-ordinary subset. Top right: the CMS serve as a set of regions responsible for the direction of our thought processes on a moment-to-moment basis. Bottom: the CMS serve as a hub integrating information from disparate neural processing systems into a “conscious workspace.”
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Figure 1: Schematic representation of three possible distinct, but not mutually exclusive models of cortical midline structure (CMS) function. Top left: the CMS are specialized for representing social information, of which the self is a powerful-but-ordinary subset. Top right: the CMS serve as a set of regions responsible for the direction of our thought processes on a moment-to-moment basis. Bottom: the CMS serve as a hub integrating information from disparate neural processing systems into a “conscious workspace.”

Mentions: We consider three possible explanations for this pattern of results that are speculative, not intended to be mutually exclusive, and are at least partially overlapping. First, one possibility is that Greenwald and Banaji (1989) may have been half-right: it may be that social information is special, and that the self is a powerful-but-ordinary social knowledge structure. Second, Heatherton (2011) has proposed that mPFC serves as a “hub,” binding together heavily processed information from secondary sensory areas from each of the senses with internally generated information to represent the conscious “workspace.” Third, mPFC may act in a meta-cognitive fashion by guiding our moment-to-moment thought processes; in essence, in deciding what to think about next. See Figure 1 for a schematic representation of each of these models.


What Can the Organization of the Brain's Default Mode Network Tell us About Self-Knowledge?

Moran JM, Kelley WM, Heatherton TF - Front Hum Neurosci (2013)

Schematic representation of three possible distinct, but not mutually exclusive models of cortical midline structure (CMS) function. Top left: the CMS are specialized for representing social information, of which the self is a powerful-but-ordinary subset. Top right: the CMS serve as a set of regions responsible for the direction of our thought processes on a moment-to-moment basis. Bottom: the CMS serve as a hub integrating information from disparate neural processing systems into a “conscious workspace.”
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3713343&req=5

Figure 1: Schematic representation of three possible distinct, but not mutually exclusive models of cortical midline structure (CMS) function. Top left: the CMS are specialized for representing social information, of which the self is a powerful-but-ordinary subset. Top right: the CMS serve as a set of regions responsible for the direction of our thought processes on a moment-to-moment basis. Bottom: the CMS serve as a hub integrating information from disparate neural processing systems into a “conscious workspace.”
Mentions: We consider three possible explanations for this pattern of results that are speculative, not intended to be mutually exclusive, and are at least partially overlapping. First, one possibility is that Greenwald and Banaji (1989) may have been half-right: it may be that social information is special, and that the self is a powerful-but-ordinary social knowledge structure. Second, Heatherton (2011) has proposed that mPFC serves as a “hub,” binding together heavily processed information from secondary sensory areas from each of the senses with internally generated information to represent the conscious “workspace.” Third, mPFC may act in a meta-cognitive fashion by guiding our moment-to-moment thought processes; in essence, in deciding what to think about next. See Figure 1 for a schematic representation of each of these models.

Bottom Line: The brain regions most associated with self-reflection are the posterior cingulate and medial prefrontal (mPFC) cortices, together known as the cortical midline structures (CMSs).Third, mPFC may serve as a cortical director of thought, helping to guide moment-by-moment conscious processing.Suggestions are made for future research avenues aimed at testing such possibilities.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center , Natick, MA , USA ; Center for Brain Science, Harvard University , Cambridge, MA , USA.

ABSTRACT
Understanding ourselves has been a fundamental topic for psychologists and philosophers alike. In this paper we review the evidence linking specific brain structures to self-reflection. The brain regions most associated with self-reflection are the posterior cingulate and medial prefrontal (mPFC) cortices, together known as the cortical midline structures (CMSs). We review evidence arguing that self-reflection is special in memory, while noting that these brain regions are often engaged when we think about others in our social worlds. Based on the CMSs' patterns of connectivity and activity, we speculate about three possible interpretations of their role in supporting self-reflection that are somewhat overlapping, and not intended to be mutually exclusive. First, self may be a powerful, but ordinary case for a cognitive system specialized for thinking about people. Second, mPFC may serve as a processing "hub," binding together information from all sensory modalities with internally generated information. Third, mPFC may serve as a cortical director of thought, helping to guide moment-by-moment conscious processing. Suggestions are made for future research avenues aimed at testing such possibilities.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus