We review neuroimaging research investigating self-referential processing (SRP), that is, how we respond to stimuli that reference ourselves, prefaced by a lexical-thematic analysis of words indicative of “self-feelings”. We consider SRP as occurring verbally (V-SRP) and non-verbally (NV-SRP), both in the controlled, “top-down” form of introspective and interoceptive tasks, respectively, as well as in the “bottom-up” spontaneous or automatic form of “mind wandering” and “body wandering” that occurs during resting state. Our review leads us to outline a conceptual and methodological framework for future SRP research that we briefly apply toward understanding certain psychological and neurological disorders symptomatically associated with abnormal SRP. Our discussion is partly guided by William James’ original writings on the consciousness of self.
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