The nature of the self: Neural analyses and heritability estimates of self‐evaluations in middle childhood

Description: How neural correlates of self-concept are influenced by environmental versus genetic factors is currently not fully understood. We investigated heritability estimates of behavioral and neural correlates of self-concept in middle childhood since this phase is an important time window for taking on new social roles in academic and social contexts. To do so, a validated self-concept fMRI task was applied in a twin sample of 345 participants aged between 7 and 9 years. In the self-concept condition, participants were asked to indicate whether academic and social traits applied to them whereas the control condition required trait categorization. The self-processing activation analyses (n=234) revealed stronger medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) activation for self than for control conditions. This effect was more pronounced for social-self than academic self-traits, whereas stronger dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) activation was observed for academic versus social self- evaluations. Behavioral genetic modeling (166 complete twin pairs) revealed that 25–52% of the variation in academic self-evaluations was explained by genetic factors, whereas 16–49% of the variation in social self-evaluations was explained by shared environmental factors. Neural genetic modeling (91 complete twin pairs) for variation in mPFC and anterior prefrontal cortex (PFC) activation for academic self-evaluations confirmed genetic and unique environmental influences, whereas anterior PFC activation for social self-evaluations was additionally influenced by shared environmental influences. This indicates that environmental context possibly has a larger impact on the behavioral and neural correlates of social self-concept at a young age. This is the first study demonstrating in a young twin sample that self-concept depends on both genetic and environmental factors, depending on the specific domain.

Communities: developmental

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Add DateOct. 14, 2021, 3:51 p.m.
Uploaded byLinavanDrunen
Related article DOI10.1002/hbm.25641
Related article authorsLina Drunen, Simone Dobbelaar, Renske Cruijsen, Mara Meulen, Michelle Achterberg, Lara M. Wierenga and Eveline A. Crone
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