Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Individuals can experience negative emotions (e.g., embarrassment) accompanying self-evaluation immediately after recognizing their own facial image, especially if it deviates strongly from their mental representation of ideals or standards. The aim of this study was to identify the cortical regions involved in self-recognition and self-evaluation along with self-conscious emotions. To increase the range of emotions accompanying self-evaluation, we used facial feedback images chosen from a video recording, some of which deviated significantly from normal images. In total, 19 participants were asked to rate images of their own face (SELF) and those of others (OTHERS) according to how photogenic they appeared to be. After scanning the images, the participants rated how embarrassed they felt upon viewing each face. As the photogenic scores decreased, the embarrassment ratings dramatically increased for the participant's own face compared with those of others. The SELF versus OTHERS contrast significantly increased the activation of the right prefrontal cortex, bilateral insular cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, and bilateral occipital cortex. Within the right prefrontal cortex, activity in the right precentral gyrus reflected the trait of awareness of observable aspects of the self; this provided strong evidence that the right precentral gyrus is specifically involved in self-face recognition. By contrast, activity in the anterior region, which is located in the right middle inferior frontal gyrus, was modulated by the extent of embarrassment. This finding suggests that the right middle inferior frontal gyrus is engaged in self-evaluation preceded by self-face recognition based on the relevance to a standard self.