Self-Reference During Explicit Memory Retrieval: An Event-Related Potential Analysis

Elena Magno, Kevin Allan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Is there a specific neurocognitive system underlying the subjective sense of having a unitary continuous self across time? If so, it should be possible to isolate functions involved in the sense of self from those supporting mental activities that the self is currently engaged in. We report a study of real-time noninvasive recordings of the brain's electrical activity (event-related potentials, ERPS). We found a common neural signature that is associated with self-referential processing regardless of whether subjects are retrieving general knowledge (noetic awareness) or reexperiencing past episodes (autonoetic awareness). These ERP data are consistent with models of autobiographical memory that postulate a single locus of control over explicit memory for various kinds of self-related information. The temporal properties and scalp distribution of this novel self-reference ERP effect also suggest that it may be a neurophysiological correlate of self-related activation in medial prefrontal and parietal neocortical circuits identified in functional magnetic resonance imaging experiments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)672-677
Number of pages6
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2007


  • episodic memory
  • autonoetic consciousness
  • recognition memory
  • familiarity
  • cortex
  • recollection
  • FMRI


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