What are we talking about when we talk about "self-reference":A cognitive ontology database of fMRI-based self-reference studies

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Self-reference (or Self-referential processes) is an important concept in cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience. It refers to cognitive processing of information relevant to self. Previous fMRI studies found that self-reference activated the cortical midline structures such as the ventral medial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and posterior cingulate gyrus (PCC). Given the overlap between the brain network of self-reference and that of other effects/phenomena, cognitive neuroscientists had claimed that self-referential processes were the underlying mechanism of many effects/phenomena, including the default network (DMN), mental disorders, and subjective value and emotions generation. However, the cognitive processes represented by the term self-referential are largely under-investigated, despite its importance in cognitive neuroscience. To fill the gap, the current study adopted a meta-analytical approach to survey the variability of operationalization of self-reference in cognitive neuroimaging literature, which culminated in a database titled Meta-Self:A Meta-Research Database for Neuroimaging Studies of Self-Reference. Meta-analyses based on this database revealed that different operationalizations activated different brain networks.With a focus on the neuroimaging data of a single psychological construct, this database will be a valuable asset for understanding the neural mechanism of self-referential processes of human beings. Also, it provides an exemplar for researchers interested in building meta-research databases for their own subfields.

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