The self
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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


The self

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)


The self

Self vs. Other

what are some benefits of an organism

being able to distinguish self from other?


The self

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


The self

Self-concepts

What are some concepts you have about yourself?


The self

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)


The self

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


The self

Self-concepts are dynamic

Highly dependent on context and surroundings

in this situation, gender will be salient

in this situation, height will be salient


The self

The dynamic self-concept

ENVIRONMENT

PERSON

Internal processes

  • Self-Concept

  • self-schemas

  • values

  • strategies

  • possible selves

Behavior

Working

Self

adapted from

Markus & Wurf (1987)


The self

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


The self

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.


The self

Neural Correlates of Self


The self

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


The self

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

3

4

2

1

VMPFC:

Northoff and Bermpohl, TICS 2004


The self

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


The self

Mind wandering: what do we think about?

  • Cognitive operations:

    • moving in time

    • remembering

    • imagining (without doing)

    • planning, incorporating memories

…almost always about SELF!


The self

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)


    The self

    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)


    The self

    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”


    The self

    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


    The self

    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


    The self

    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?


    The self

    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


    The self

    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


    The self

    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


    The self

    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


    The self

    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


    The self

    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


    The self

    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


    The self

    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.


    The self

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


    The self

    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…


    The self

    …and then I sort of immediately settled in and I was really getting into it…


    The self

    …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...


    The self

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


    The self

    …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…


    The self

    …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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