18 January 2021

The ‘narcissist’ region of the brain

Clinical The Back Page

Ever wondered why people can always locate their own name tag faster than a stranger’s, or why people cringe hearing their own voice but not others’?

Chinese and US scientists have now located a region of the human brain that lights up when people spot a representation of themselves, suggesting that at least some of our neurons are a bit narcissistic.

The study was published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

The scientists trained around 30 people to perceive different coloured dots in a particular location as either a representation of themselves or a representation of a stranger.

They then scanned these volunteers’ brains as they looked at coloured dots and found that people were faster as recognising the ‘me’ dot even though it was a completely arbitrary association. (They didn’t even let the volunteers pick their favourite colour!)

The region of the brain called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) lit up when people were looking at the ‘me’ dot but not when they looked at a stranger’s dot. 

When scientists disabled the VMPFC using electricity, the volunteers were no faster at recalling their dot than the others.

If you see something stupid, say something stupid… Every full stop on this page represents a different part of your personality. Where do your eyes go first? Send results to felicity@medicalrepublic.com.au.

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