Self-Reflection and the Inner Voice: Activation of the Left Inferior Frontal Gyrus During Perceptual and Conceptual Self-Referential Thinking

Alain Morin*, Breanne Hamper
Department of Psychology, Mount Royal University, 4825 Richard Road S.W., Calgary, Alberta, Canada T3E 6K6

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© Morin and Hamper; Licensee Bentham Open

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (, which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Psychology, Mount Royal University, 4825 Richard Road S.W., Calgary, Alberta, Canada T3E 6K6; Tel: 403-440-7069; E-mail:


Inner speech involvement in self-reflection was examined by reviewing 130 studies assessing brain activation during self-referential processing in key self-domains: agency, self-recognition, emotions, personality traits, autobiographical memory, and miscellaneous (e.g., prospection, judgments). The left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) has been shown to be reliably recruited during inner speech production. The percentage of studies reporting LIFG activity for each self-dimension was calculated. Fifty five percent of all studies reviewed indicated LIFG (and presumably inner speech) activity during self-reflection tasks; on average LIFG activation is observed 16% of the time during completion of non-self tasks (e.g., attention, perception). The highest LIFG activation rate was observed during retrieval of autobiographical information. The LIFG was significantly more recruited during conceptual tasks (e.g., prospection, traits) than during perceptual tasks (agency and self-recognition). This constitutes additional evidence supporting the idea of a participation of inner speech in self-related thinking.

Keywords: Self-awareness, self-reflection, self-referential activity, inner speech, self-talk, verbal labeling, left inferior frontal gyrus, language, conceptual self-domains, perceptual self-domains, brain-imaging.