Although theories that examine direct links between behavior and brain remain incomplete, it is known that brain expansion significantly correlates with caloric and oxygen demands. Therefore, one of the principles governing evolutionary cognitive neuroscience is that cognitive abilities that require significant brain function (and/or structural support) must be accompanied by significant fitness benefit to offset the increased metabolic demands. One such capacity is self-awareness (SA), which (1) is found only in the greater apes and (2) remains unclear in terms of (...) both cortical underpinning and possible fitness benefit. In the current experiment, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was applied to the prefrontal cortex during a spatial perspective-taking task involving self and other viewpoints. It was found that delivery of TMS to the right prefrontal region disrupted self-, but not other-, perspective. These data suggest that self-awareness may have evolved in concert with other right hemisphere cognitive abilities. (shrink)
Self-awareness is thought to be tied to processes of higher-order perspective taking including empathy. These abilities appear to be reserved for humans, great apes, and possibly, dolphins. Recent examinations reveal that both self-awareness and empathy may have origins in the right hemisphere. It is possible that, as in language, lateralization plays a key role in the development of higher-order perspective taking and self-awareness.