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The brain region responsible for self-bias in memory

Region involved in processing information about the self skews working memory

Society for Neuroscience

Research News

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IMAGE: Regions showing enhanced activation during the maintenance of self-associated stimluli (left), including both classic self-referential processing regions (VMPFC) and regions in the working memory network. view more 

Credit: Yin et al., JNeurosci 2021

A brain region involved in processing information about ourselves biases our ability to remember, according to new research published in JNeurosci.

People are good at noticing information about themselves, like when your eye jumps to your name in a long list or you manage to hear someone address you in a noisy crowd. This self-bias extends to working memory, the ability to actively think about and manipulate bits of information: people are also better at remembering things about themselves.

To pinpoint the source of this bias, Yin et al. measured participants' brain activity in an fMRI scanner while they tried to remember the location of different colored dots representing themselves, a friend, or a stranger. The participants' fastest response time came when recalling the dot representing themselves, even though it was an arbitrary connection. When people held the self-representing dot in working memory, they had greater activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) -- an area involved in processing self-relevant information. Greater synchrony between the VMPFC and working memory regions corresponded to faster response times. When the researchers interfered with VMPFC activity with transcranial direct current stimulation, the self-bias disappeared, indicating activity in the region drives the bias.

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Manuscript title: Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex Drives the Prioritization of Self-Associated Stimuli in Working Memory

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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