Differentiating between self and others: an ALE meta-analysis of fMRI studies of self-recognition and theory of mind
The perception of self and others is a key aspect of social cognition. In order to investigate the neurobiological basis of this distinction we reviewed two classes of task that study self-awareness and awareness of others (theory of mind, ToM). A reliable task to measure self-awareness is the recognition of one’s own face in contrast to the recognition of others’ faces. False-belief tasks are widely used to identify neural correlates of ToM as a measure of awareness of others. We performed an activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis, using the fMRI literature on self-face recognition and false-belief tasks. The brain areas involved in performing false-belief tasks were the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), bilateral temporo-parietal junction, precuneus, and the bilateral middle temporal gyrus. Distinct self-face recognition regions were the right superior temporal gyrus, the right parahippocampal gyrus, the right inferior frontal gyrus/anterior cingulate cortex, and the left inferior parietal lobe. Overlapping brain areas were the superior temporal gyrus, and the more ventral parts of the MPFC. We confirmed that self-recognition in contrast to recognition of others’ faces, and awareness of others involves a network that consists of separate, distinct neural pathways, but also includes overlapping regions of higher order prefrontal cortex where these processes may be combined. Insights derived from the neurobiology of disorders such as autism and schizophrenia are consistent with this notion.
KeywordsSelf-awareness Theory of mind Self-face recognition False-belief tasks Autism Schizophrenia
The authors would like to thank Prof Chris Frith for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.
Dr Steven Chance was funded by a grant from Autism Speaks USA/Autistica UK.
- Chance, S. A., Sawyer, E. K., Clover, L. M., Wicinski, B., Hof, P. R., Crow, T. J. (2012). Hemispheric asymmetry in the fusiform gyrus distinguishes Homo sapiens from chimpanzees. Brain Structure and Function, [Epub ahead of print].Google Scholar
- Cook, J., Barbalat, G., & Blakemore, S. J. (2012). Top-down modulation of the perception of other people in schizophrenia and autism. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 15, 175.Google Scholar
- Demetriou, A., & Kazi, S. (2001). Unity and modularity in the mind and the self: Studies on the relationships between self-awareness, personality, and intellectual development from childhood to adolescence. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Eickhoff, S. B., Laird, A. R., Grefkes, C., Wang, L. E., Zilles, K., & Fox, P. T. (2009). Coordinate-based activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis of neuroimaging data: a random-effects approach based on empirical estimates of spatial uncertainty. Human Brain Mapping, 30, 2907–2926.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Keenan, J. P., Gallup, G. G., Jr., & Falk, D. (2003). The face in the mirror: The search for the origins of consciousness. London: HarperCollins Publishers.Google Scholar
- Martinelli, P., Sperduti, M., Piolino, P. (2012). Neural substrates of the self-memory system: new insights from a meta-analysis. Human Brain Mapping, [Epub ahead of print].Google Scholar
- Rilling, J. K., Barks, S. K., Parr, L. A., Preuss, T. M., Faber, T. L., Pagnoni, G., et al. (2007). A comparison of resting-state brain activity in humans and chimpanzees. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104, 17146–17151.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar