Is the self a higher-order or fundamental function of the brain? The “basis model of self-specificity” and its encoding by the brain’s spontaneous activity

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What is the self? This is a question that has long been discussed in (Western) philosophy where the self is traditionally conceived a higher-order function at the apex or pinnacle of all functions. This tradition has been transferred to recent neuroscience where the self is often considered to be a higher-order cognitive function reflected in memory and other high-level judgements. However, other lines of research demonstrate a close and intimate relationship between self-specificity and more basic functions like perceptions, emotions and reward. This paper focuses on the relationship between self-specificity and other basic functions relating to emotions, reward and perception. I propose the basis model that conceives self-specificity as a fundamental feature of the brain's spontaneous activity. This is supported by recent findings showing rest-self overlap in midline regions as well as findings demonstrating that the resting state can predict subsequent degrees of self-specificity. I conclude that such self-specificity in the brain's spontaneous activity may be central in linking the self to either internal or external stimuli. This may also provide the basis for coding the self as subject in relation to internal (i.e., self-consciousness) or external (i.e., phenomenal consciousness) mental events.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalCognitive Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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