Self-face recognition in social context

Motoaki Sugiura, Yuko Sassa, Hyeonjeong Jeong, Keisuke Wakusawa, Kaoru Horie, Shigeru Sato, Ryuta Kawashima

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


The concept of "social self" is often described as a representation of the self-reflected in the eyes or minds of others. Although the appearance of one's own face has substantial social significance for humans, neuroimaging studies have failed to link self-face recognition and the likely neural substrate of the social self, the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC). We assumed that the social self is recruited during self-face recognition under a rich social context where multiple other faces are available for comparison of social values. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we examined the modulation of neural responses to the faces of the self and of a close friend in a social context. We identified an enhanced response in the ventral MPFC and right occipitoparietal sulcus in the social context specifically for the self-face. Neural response in the right lateral parietal and inferior temporal cortices, previously claimed as self-face-specific, was unaffected for the self-face but unexpectedly enhanced for the friend's face in the social context. Self-face-specific activation in the pars triangularis of the inferior frontal gyrus, and self-face-specific reduction of activation in the left middle temporal gyrus and the right supramarginal gyrus, replicating a previous finding, were not subject to such modulation. Our results thus demonstrated the recruitment of a social self during self-face recognition in the social context. At least three brain networks for self-face-specific activation may be dissociated by different patterns of response-modulation in the social context, suggesting multiple dynamic self-other representations in the human brain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1364-1374
Number of pages11
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Jun


  • Echo-planar imaging
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Parietal lobe
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Self concept
  • Social perception
  • Social values
  • Temporal lobe
  • Visual perception


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