Peggy L. St. Jacques, Martin A. Conway, Matthew W. Lowder, and Roberto Cabeza
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
June 2011, Vol. 23, No. 6, Pages 1275-1284
Self-projection, the capacity to re-experience the personal past and to mentally infer another person's perspective, has been linked to medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). In particular, ventral mPFC is associated with inferences about one's own self, whereas dorsal mPFC is associated with inferences about another individual. In the present fMRI study, we examined self-projection using a novel camera technology, which employs a sensor and timer to automatically take hundreds of photographs when worn, in order to create dynamic visuospatial cues taken from a first-person perspective. This allowed us to ask participants to self-project into the personal past or into the life of another person. We predicted that self-projection to the personal past would elicit greater activity in ventral mPFC, whereas self-projection of another perspective would rely on dorsal mPFC. There were three main findings supporting this prediction. First, we found that self-projection to the personal past recruited greater ventral mPFC, whereas observing another person's perspective recruited dorsal mPFC. Second, activity in ventral versus dorsal mPFC was sensitive to parametric modulation on each trial by the ability to relive the personal past or to understand another's perspective, respectively. Third, task-related functional connectivity analysis revealed that ventral mPFC contributed to the medial temporal lobe network linked to memory processes, whereas dorsal mPFC contributed to the fronto-parietal network linked to controlled processes. In sum, these results suggest that ventral–dorsal subregions of the anterior midline are functionally dissociable and may differentially contribute to self-projection of self versus other.