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Subjective mental time: the functional architecture of projecting the self to past and future

Authors

  • Shahar Arzy,

    1. Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience, Brain Mind Institute, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Station 15, Lausanne 1015, Switzerland
    2. Department of Neurology, Hadassah Hebrew University Hospital, POB 12000, Jerusalem 91120, Israel
    3. Department of Neurology, University Hospital, Geneva 1211, Switzerland
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  • Sven Collette,

    1. Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience, Brain Mind Institute, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Station 15, Lausanne 1015, Switzerland
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  • Silvio Ionta,

    1. Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience, Brain Mind Institute, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Station 15, Lausanne 1015, Switzerland
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  • Eleonora Fornari,

    1. Department of Radiology, University Hospital, Lausanne 1011, Switzerland
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  • Olaf Blanke

    1. Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience, Brain Mind Institute, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Station 15, Lausanne 1015, Switzerland
    2. Department of Neurology, University Hospital, Geneva 1211, Switzerland
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Dr S. Arzy, 2Department of Neurology, Hadassah Hebrew University Hospital, as above.
E-mail: shahar.arzy@ekmd.huji.ac.il

Abstract

Human experience takes place in the line of mental time (MT) created through ‘self-projection’ of oneself to different time-points in the past or future. Here we manipulated self-projection in MT not only with respect to one’s life events but also with respect to one’s faces from different past and future time-points. Behavioural and event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging activity showed three independent effects characterized by (i) similarity between past recollection and future imagination, (ii) facilitation of judgements related to the future as compared with the past, and (iii) facilitation of judgements related to time-points distant from the present. These effects were found with respect to faces and events, and also suggest that brain mechanisms of MT are independent of whether actual life episodes have to be re-experienced or pre-experienced, recruiting a common cerebral network including the anteromedial temporal, posterior parietal, inferior frontal, temporo-parietal and insular cortices. These behavioural and neural data suggest that self-projection in time is a fundamental aspect of MT, relying on neural structures encoding memory, mental imagery and self.

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