What the self is and where it comes from has been one of the great problems of philosophy for thousands of years. As science and medicine have progressed this question has moved to also become a central one in psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience. The advent of in vivo brain imaging has now allowed the scientific investigation of the self to progress further than ever.
Many such imaging studies have indicated that brain structures along the cortical midline are particularly closely related to self-specific processing. For example, when comparing self- versus non-self-specific stimuli, neural activity changes in regions such as the medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortices can be seen. This association between midline structures and self is reinforced by the involvement of these regions in other self-oriented processes, such as mind-wandering, stimulus valuation, and internally guided decision-making.
Although such promising groundwork linking the self and midline structures has been carried out, many major questions remain. The purpose of this Research Topic is to address some of these questions.
Some questions that might be asked are: What functional, biochemical or network features of the midline regions lead to their apparent importance in self-processing? What is the link between the self and the high intrinsic activity seen in the midline regions? How can we appropriately account for confounding factors such as familiarity or task-effects in our experiments? Do the results gained to date really provide a link between the self and midline regions?
From a more conceptual perspective we can ask, for example: What is the nature of the self that is associated with midline structures? How is this aspect of the self related to others, or to other features of the mind, such as consciousness? How is our methodology influencing our attempts to link the self and the brain?
In this research topic, there are two aims: firstly, to advance our knowledge of neural basis of the self-processing by eliminate the confounding factors, and discover more information about the relationship between the self-processing and brain resting state; secondly, to combine psychology, psychophysiology and neuroscience knowledge to improve the understanding of the self, and contribute to the concept of the self. We call for researchers from across disciplines to submit original research articles (fMRI, PET, EEG and behaviour), reviews, or opinion pieces, that approach issues broadly related to those outlined. Submissions focussing on patients with disorders of self or non-human animals are welcome, as are philosophical or technical papers.
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.
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