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The Self. ETSI: Year 5. Lecture Goals . Define “self” and understand its value Discuss self-concepts structure: what makes up a concept dynamic: concepts are not fixed entities function: how are concepts useful? Examine brain networks and different neural theories of self processing.

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the self

The Self

ETSI: Year 5

lecture goals
Lecture Goals
  • Define “self” and understand its value
  • Discuss self-concepts
    • structure: what makes up a concept
    • dynamic: concepts are not fixed entities
    • function: how are concepts useful?
  • Examine brain networks and different neural theories of self processing
slide3

What is “self”?

Three Levels:

Proto-self: most basic sense distinguishing self from other, even simple organisms have this – moment to moment representation of the bodily state

Antonio Damasio

Core self: simple, transient sense of self in the here and now, recreated in each moment

Autobiographical self: timeline of your own history extended over time (involves memory)

slide4

Self vs. Other

what are some benefits of an organism

being able to distinguish self from other?

slide5

Autobiographical Self

  • Over time, we develop self-conceptsbased on our cumulative experience
  • These are particularly developed and important in social organisms
  • Self-concepts are central for regulating one’s own behavior
    • goal setting
    • cognitive preparation for action
      • planning, rehearsal, strategy
    • monitoring
    • evaluating
slide6

Self-concepts

What are some concepts you have about yourself?

slide7

Self-concepts are multi-faceted

  • contain ideas about:
    • traits
    • values
    • feelings
    • memories
    • social roles
  • many different types:
    • positive or negative
    • current experience vs. past or future
    • actual self vs. ideal self vs. other possible selves (feared, ought)
    • central (well developed, important, relatively stable) or peripheral

Markus & Wurf (1987)

slide8

Self-concepts are dynamic

While we may think of our self-concept as unitary or fixed, these concepts are NOT stable or static, but ever-changing

slide9

Self-concepts are dynamic

Highly dependent on context and surroundings

in this situation, gender will be salient

in this situation, height will be salient

slide10

The dynamic self-concept

ENVIRONMENT

PERSON

Internal processes

  • Self-Concept
  • self-schemas
  • values
  • strategies
  • possible selves

Behavior

Working

Self

adapted from

Markus & Wurf (1987)

slide11

What is the function of self-concepts?

  • Internal Processes:
    • information processing
    • affect regulation
    • motivation of behavior
  • Behavior:
    • social perception, evaluating others
    • choice of situation and partners
    • interaction strategies (the image we present to others)
    • reacting to feedback
slide12

The danger of self-concepts

Think of a self-concept you have that you value highly, or feel is very important or central to you being “you”

Now, imagine that you are in a scenario in which you act completely opposite from this self-concept (or someone tells you they think you are not that way)…

 STRESS!

In fact, “threat to self” is a central element in stress – this occurs when any of your goals, values, or core beliefs about yourself are challenged.

slide14

Meta-Analysis of Self vs. Other fMRI

Northoff et al, NeuroImage 2006

Many studies show cortical midline regions preferentially activated when processing information related to SELF vs. OTHER

slide15

What functions might midline cortical regions serve in relation to self?

3

4

2

1

VMPFC:

Northoff and Bermpohl, TICS 2004

slide16

Default Mode Network

Meta-analysis of brain regions more active at “rest” than during task

posterior cingulate cortex

medial prefrontal cortex

LATERAL SURFACE

MEDIAL SURFACE

Buckner et al, Ann NY AcadSci, 2008

Definition: a specific, anatomically defined brain system preferentially active when individuals are left to think to themselves undisturbed

slide17

Mind wandering: what do we think about?

  • Cognitive operations:
    • moving in time
    • remembering
    • imagining (without doing)
    • planning, incorporating memories

…almost always about SELF!

slide18

Neural Correlates of Self

  • For the above reasons, many neuroscientists relate the default mode network, or regions within in (particularly mPFC), to “self” processing.
  • However, other theorists propose different ideas… neuroscientists are just beginning to distinguish between various definitions of “self”.
self as object vs self as subject
Self-as-object vs. Self-as-subject
  • “me” versus “I”
    • me = self-concept, the object
    • I = the observer, subjective sense
  • example: looking at image in mirror
      • perceived me is self-as-object
      • perceiving I is self-as-subject
  • This view argues that default mode processing (mPFC especially) views self as object only.

Legrand & Ruby (2009)

self a re conceptualization
Self: a re-conceptualization
  • default mode regions as a non self-specific evaluation network, relating to both “self” and “other” processing
  • self > other (white dots)
  • other > self (blue dots)

Legrand & Ruby (2009)

what is self specific
What IS self-specific?

Christoff et al (2011)

  • contents are not self-specific
    • - even feeling of one’s body
  • perspective is self-specific
  • This perspective involves acting, and knowing you are acting: reafference
self as perceptual motor grounding
Self as Perceptual-motor Grounding

SELF

EXTERNAL WORLD

Sensory

Consequence

Sensorimotor integration

Reafference

Efference copy

Motor command from motor cortex

Effector (e.g., muscles)

Legrand & Ruby (2009)

slide23

Anterior Insula: another view on ‘I’

feeling of knowing

inspection time

  • Studies in many domains find activation in anterior insula
  • Hypothesis: awareness is common process underlying all activations
  • Awareness = knowing that one exists; the feeling that “I am”
  • Inner feelings that underlie one’s representation of self are only accessible from one’s own brain

sensual touch

painful temperature

respiration & exercise

itch

Craig (2009)

slide24

Is there a a neural substrate of self?

  • Ideas about self in the brain abound
    • Some presume “self” can involve any set of brain regions representing experience and memory
    • Self may emerge from multiple streams of processing
  • Elements of all these theories may be correct
  • There is likely no single neural substrate of self
  • This topic is still very much in debate, and is closely related to the study of “consciousness”
slide25

Summary

  • Self is an important construct for survival, and involves many domains (traits, values, memories, etc.)
  • Although we often think of it as stable and fixed, self is dynamic and very dependent on the situation.
  • While the self is important and very useful for regulating behavior, it can also lead to stress if tightly-held views are challenged.
  • The neural underpinnings of self are still being investigated.
    • Some research focuses on self-as-object (mPFC and default mode).
    • Other work tries to distinguish self-as-subject (reafference and insula).
etsi year 4 day 4 afternoon

Exploring Brain Networks

during Meditation

ETSI: Year 4, Day 4 afternoon

slide27

Default Mode Network

Meta-analysis of brain regions more active at “rest” than during task

posterior cingulate cortex (PCC)

medial prefrontal cortex

LATERAL SURFACE

MEDIAL SURFACE

Buckner et al, Ann NY AcadSci, 2008

Definition: a specific, anatomically defined brain system preferentially active when individuals are left to think to themselves undisturbed

overlap between dmn and self referential processing
Overlap between DMN and Self-referential processing

posterior cingulate cortex (PCC)

medial prefrontal cortex

Whitfield-GabrieliNeuroimage (2011)

decreased dmn self related activity during meditation in experienced meditators
Decreased DMN/self-related activity during meditation in experienced meditators

Contrast: (Experienced Meditator > Novice)

medial prefrontal cortex

PCC

x = -6

z = 21

Brewer et al PNAS (2011)

what exactly happens in the brain during focused attention meditation moment by moment

What exactly happens in the brain during focused attention meditation, moment-by-moment?

An fMRI study by Wendy Hasenkamp, PhD

slide31

Cognitive Dynamics during Focused Meditation

Mind-wandering

(MW)

Default Mode Network?

Awareness

of MW

Focus

Attention Network?

Shifting Attention

Disengage/Re-focus

What happens in the brain during focused meditation?

slide32

Mind-

wandering

Awareness

of MW

Focus

Shifting

Attention

Methods

  • 14meditators from western culture
  • age 28-66
  • 3 male, 11 female
  • assessed meditation experience familiarity with breath-focus meditation
  • Functional MRI Task: Focus on the breath, whenever you realize your mind has wandered, press the button and return focus to breath (20 min)
  • Use button-press data to determine brief conditions related to shifting mental states
approach to analysis
Approach to Analysis

Approach to Analysis

TR=1.5 sec

Shifting/

Meditation

Mind-

wandering

Moment of awareness

(button press)

censored

censored

No interest

AWARE

3 sec

FOCUS

6 sec

3 sec

3 sec

3 sec

MW

SHIFT

A

A

A

slide34

Cognitive References for Conditions

AWARE

FOCUS

SHIFT

MW

Mind-wandering (MW)

MW

A

Awareness

of MW

Focus

Shifting Attention

Disengage/Re-focus

AWARE

FOCUS

SHIFT

slide35

Awareness of MW

Contrast: AWARE > MW

activation relative to baseline (MW)

activation during motor control

4 -4 16

AWARE

FOCUS

SHIFT

MW

Bilateral anterior insula and dorsal ACC

salience network: identify relevant stimuli

A

slide36

Shifting/Re-focusing

Contrast: SHIFT > MW

9 43 -45

AWARE

FOCUS

SHIFT

MW

Fronto-parietal attention networks (right-lateralized)

executive network: respond to stimuli by controlling attention

A

slide37

Sustained Focus/Meditation

Contrast: FOCUS > MW

32 41 33

AWARE

FOCUS

SHIFT

MW

Right dorsolateral PFC

executive network: respond to stimuli by controlling attention, working memory, keeping goal in mind

A

slide38

Mind wandering

Contrast: SHIFT > MW

11 -6 -5

AWARE

mPFC, posterior cingulate, parahippocampalgyrus

default mode network: memory, planning, imagining

(other, motor-related regions also active, due to button press preparation)

FOCUS

SHIFT

MW

A

slide39

Correlation of brain activity with meditation experience

% signal change from baseline

AWARE

VMPFC:

self & evaluation

FOCUS

SHIFT

MW

p=0.010

seconds

 More experience, better at quieting self-processing/evaluation?

A

summary
Summary

MW

AWARE

FOCUS

SHIFT

Correlations with practice time suggest experience-dependent neural plasticity

slide41

Can meditators learn to modify their brain activity if they see it shown on a screen during an fMRI brain scan?

A real-time neurofeedback study by Jud Brewer, PhD

fmri neurofeedback
fMRI neurofeedback

While lying inside the fMRI scanner, the subject is practicing focused attention on the breath, with eyes open. At the same time he sees on the screen his own brain activation in area PCC.

slide43

Afterwards, participants were asked to described what happened during their meditation inside the scanner…

slide44

So at the beginning, I caught myself, that I was sort of trying to guess when the words were going to end and when the meditation was going to begin. So I was kind of trying to be like “okay ready, set, go!” and then there was an additional word that popped up and I was like “oh shit” and so that’s the red spike you see there…

slide46

…and then I thought “oh my gosh this is amazing it’s describing exactly what I am saying” and then you see that red spike...

slide47

… and I was like “okay, wait don’t get distracted” and then I got back into it and then it got blue again…

slide48

…and I was like “oh my gosh this is unbelievable, it’s doing exactly what my mind is doing” and so [chuckles] then it got red again…

slide49

…So I just find it really funny because … that’s a perfect map of what my mind was going through.

novice meditator
Novice Meditator

”focused more on the physical sensation instead of thinking in and out”

Thinking about the breath

Run 1

Run 2

Run 3

Run 4

experienced meditator

On run 6, I had a familiar memory image appear, one of a pond, willow tree and fields of my parents farm. I noticed the strong red deflection in response to this, although I don\'t appear in the image. I went back to the image to see if there was a sense of watcher-subject and noticed that image has a sense of being seen through a child\'s eyes. The somewhat desolate feeling landscape corresponds to that child\'s subjectivity. So there is a subject there, even though I never noticed it before, the scanner feedback made me look for it. If you look at run 6 you can see me exploring the image in a long run of red in the middle. Then I remembered I wasn\'t doing the task so I let it go for a while. Then I started imaginging myself in the future, telling Jud about what I had discovered about childhoold memories, which you can see clearly in the second run of red at the end of run 6.

Experienced Meditator

Future thinking

Repeating one’s name

Exploring image

On task

Run 1

Run 6

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