[en] fMRI ; medial prefrontal cortex ; time ; self
[en] The processing of personal changes across time and the ability to differentiate between representations of present and past selves are crucial for developing a mature sense of identity. In this study, we explored the neural correlates of self-reflection across time using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). College undergraduates were asked to reflect on their own psychological characteristics and those of an intimate other, for both the present time period (i.e. at college) and a past time period (i.e. high school years) that involved significant personal changes. Cortical midline structures (CMS) were commonly recruited by the four reflective tasks (reflecting on the present self, past self, present other and past other), relative to a control condition (making valence judgments). More importantly, however, the degree of activity in CMS also varied significantly according to the target of reflection, with the ventral and dorsal medial prefrontal cortex and the posterior cingulate cortex being more recruited when reflecting on the present self than when reflecting on the past self or when reflecting on the other person. These findings suggest that CMS may contribute to differentiate between representations of present and past selves.