Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

Neuron. 2011 Apr 28;70(2):363-74. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.03.009

Multisensory mechanisms in temporo-parietal cortex support self-location and first-person perspective

Self-consciousness has mostly been approached by philosophical enquiry and not by empirical neuroscientific study, leading to an overabundance of diverging theories and an absence of data-driven theories. Using robotic technology, we achieved specific bodily conflicts and induced predictable changes in a fundamental aspect of self-consciousness by altering where healthy subjects experienced themselves to be (self-location). Functional magnetic resonance imaging revealed that temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) activity reflected experimental changes in self-location that also depended on the first-person perspective due to visuo-tactile and visuo-vestibular conflicts. Moreover, in a large lesion analysis study of neurological patients with a well-defined state of abnormal self-location, brain damage was also localized at TPJ, providing causal evidence that TPJ encodes self-location. Our findings reveal that multisensory integration at the TPJ reflects one of the most fundamental subjective feelings of humans: the feeling of being an entity localized at a position in space and perceiving the world from this position and perspective.

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