Unconscious Neural Specificity for Self and the Brainstem

Journal of Consciousness Studies 20 (1-2):1-2 (2013)
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The self/non-self distinction is essential for survival, but its neural bases are poorly understood. Studies have sought neural specificity for 'self ' in cortical regions. However, behavioural evidence showing that humans are able to single out self-relevant information in the absence of awareness suggests that the cognitive self/non-self distinction might be rooted in subcortical structures involved in automatic, unconscious functions. Here we employ subliminal presentation of self and non-self faces and repetition suppression to show neural specificity for 'self ' in the brainstem reticular formation, providing the first evidence for self/non-self distinction in subcortical structures. Our finding suggests that the brainstem may act as a neural substrate for the sense of 'self '



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