Having a word with yourself:neural correlates of self-criticism and self-reassurance


Self-criticism is strongly correlated with a range of psychopathologies, such as depression, eating disorders and anxiety. In contrast, self-reassurance is inversely associated with such psychopathologies. Despite the importance of self-judgements and evaluations, little is known about the neurophysiology of these internal processes. The current study therefore used a novel fMRI task to investigate the neuronal correlates of self-criticism and self-reassurance. Participants were presented statements describing two types of scenario, with the instruction to either imagine being self-critical or self-reassuring in that situation. One scenario type focused on a personal setback, mistake or failure, which would elicit negative emotions, whilst the second was of a matched neutral event. Self-criticism was associated with activity in lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) regions and dorsal anterior cingulate (dAC), therefore linking self-critical thinking to error processing and resolution, and also behavioural inhibition. Self-reassurance was associated with left temporal pole and insula activation, suggesting that efforts to be self-reassuring engage similar regions to expressing compassion and empathy towards others. Additionally, we found a dorsal/ventral PFC divide between an individual's tendency to be self-critical or self-reassuring. Using multiple regression analyses, dorsolateral PFC activity was positively correlated with high levels of self-criticism (assessed via self-report measure), suggesting greater error processing and behavioural inhibition in such individuals. Ventrolateral PFC activity was positively correlated with high self-reassurance. Our findings may have implications for the neural basis of a range of mood disorders that are characterised by a preoccupation with personal mistakes and failures, and a self-critical response to such events.

Publication DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.09.019
Divisions: College of Health & Life Sciences > Clinical and Systems Neuroscience
College of Health & Life Sciences
College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Psychology
College of Health & Life Sciences > Aston Institute of Health & Neurodevelopment (AIHN)
Aston University (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: brain,brain mapping,emotions,female,humans,imagination,magnetic resonance imaging,oxygen,prefrontal cortex,psychological tests,regression analysis,self concept,self-assessment,young adult,Cognitive Neuroscience,Neurology
Publication ISSN: 1095-9572
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2024 07:09
Date Deposited: 17 Jul 2012 13:42
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Related URLs: http://www.scop ... tnerID=8YFLogxK (Scopus URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2010-01-15
Published Online Date: 2009-09-18
Authors: Longe, Olivia
Maratos, Frances A.
Gilbert, Paul
Evans, Gaynor
Volker, Faye
Rockliff, Helen
Rippon, Gina (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-3574-745X)



Version: Draft Version

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