The different faces of one's self: an fMRI study into the recognition of current and past self-facial appearances.
Apps MA., Tajadura-Jiménez A., Turley G., Tsakiris M.
Mirror self-recognition is often considered as an index of self-awareness. Neuroimaging studies have identified a neural circuit specialised for the recognition of one's own current facial appearance. However, faces change considerably over a lifespan, highlighting the necessity for representations of one's face to continually be updated. We used fMRI to investigate the different neural circuits involved in the recognition of the childhood and current, adult, faces of one's self. Participants viewed images of either their own face as it currently looks morphed with the face of a familiar other or their childhood face morphed with the childhood face of the familiar other. Activity in areas which have a generalised selectivity for faces, including the inferior occipital gyrus, the superior parietal lobule and the inferior temporal gyrus, varied with the amount of current self in an image. Activity in areas involved in memory encoding and retrieval, including the hippocampus and the posterior cingulate gyrus, and areas involved in creating a sense of body ownership, including the temporo-parietal junction and the inferior parietal lobule, varied with the amount of childhood self in an image. We suggest that the recognition of one's own past or present face is underpinned by different cognitive processes in distinct neural circuits. Current self-recognition engages areas involved in perceptual face processing, whereas childhood self-recognition recruits networks involved in body ownership and memory processing.