Culture and Brain

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 72–86 | Cite as

Shared neural representations of self and conjugal family members in Chinese brain

  • Shihui HanEmail author
  • Yina Ma
  • Gang Wang
Original Research Article


Human adults share ample experiences with their spouse and offspring. Do these experiences produce shared neural correlates of reflection on oneself and family members? We addressed this issue by scanning 14 Chinese middle-aged married couples, using functional MRI, during personality trait judgments of the self, one’s spouse, one’s child, and a celebrity. We found common activations in the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) during trait judgments of the self, spouse, and child compared to a celebrity. Self- and spouse-judgments also elicited overlapping activations in the ventral thalamus and caudate. Female and male participants showed comparable MPFC activity during child-judgments but females exhibited stronger MPFC activity during spouse-judgments compared to males. Our neuroimaging findings suggest that life experiences with conjugal family members during adulthood shape the functional organization of the brain and result in shared neural representations of oneself and conjugal family members during reflection on personality traits.


Self Family fMRI MPFC Ventral thalamus 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Project 31470986; 31421003; 91332125). We thank Michael Varnum for his helpful comments on this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Psychological and Cognitive Sciences, PKU-IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain ResearchPeking UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain ResearchBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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