Self-Positivity or Self-Negativity as a Function of the Medial Prefrontal Cortex

Alla Yankouskaya, Jie Sui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
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Self and emotions are key motivational factors of a person strivings for health and well-being. Understanding neural mechanisms supporting the relationship between these factors bear far-reaching implications for mental health disorders. Recent work indicates a substantial overlap between self-relevant and emotion information processing and has proposed the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) as one shared neural signature. However, the precise cognitive and neural mechanisms represented by the MPFC in investigations of self- and emotion-related processing are largely unknown. Here we examined whether the neural underpinnings of self-related processing in the MPFC link to positive or negative emotions. We collected fMRI data to test the distinct and shared neural circuits of self- and emotion-related processing while participants performed personal (self, friend, or stranger) and emotion (happy, sad, or neutral) associative matching tasks. By exploiting tight control over the factors that determine the effects of self-relevance and emotions (positive: Happy vs. neutral; negative: Sad vs. neutral), our univariate analysis revealed that the ventral part of the MPFC (vmPFC), which has established involvement in self-prioritisation effects, was not recruited in the negative emotion prioritisation effect. In contrast, there were no differences in brain activity between the effects of positive emotion- and self-prioritisation. These results were replicated by both region of interest (ROI)-based analysis in the vmPFC and the seed- to voxel functional connectivity analysis between the MPFC and the rest of the brain. The results suggest that the prioritisation effects for self and positive emotions are tightly linked together, and the MPFC plays a large role in discriminating between positive and negative emotions in relation to self-relevance.
Original languageEnglish
Article number264
Number of pages17
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number2
Early online date19 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding: This work was supported by grants from the Economic and Social Research Council (ES/K013424/1) and the Leverhulme Trust (RPG-2019-010)


  • self-prioritisation
  • emotion prioritisation
  • medial prefrontal cortex
  • self-positivity bias
  • fMRI
  • Medial prefrontal cortex
  • Self‐positivity bias
  • Emotion prioritisation
  • Self‐prioritisation
  • FMRI


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