Self-related processing and future thinking: Distinct contributions of ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the medial temporal lobes.


Memory Disorders Research Center, VA Boston Healthcare System and Boston University School of Medicine, USA. Electronic address: [Email]


Episodic future thinking depends on a core network of regions that involves, in addition to the medial temporal lobes (MTL), the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Neuroimaging studies suggest that vmPFC is particularly involved when future thinking requires consideration of self-relevant information, but lesion evidence for a special role of vmPFC in constructing self-relevant scenarios is limited. To clarify the involvement of vmPFC in future thinking, eight patients with vmPFC lesions were asked to imagine future events pertaining to the self or to another person, and their performance was contrasted with that of eight patients with MTL lesions. Patients with vmPFC lesions were no more detailed in their description of future events pertaining to the self than of events pertaining to another person. In contrast, like controls, patients with MTL lesions showed a self-benefit, despite impoverished performance overall. These findings accord with evidence from neuroimaging studies and elucidate the distinct contributions of vmPFC and MTL to future thinking.


Amnesia,Future thinking,Medial temporal lobe,Psychological distance,Self,Ventromedial prefrontal cortex,