The ‘Narcissus Effect’: top-down alpha-beta band modulation of face-related brain areas during self-face processing

Elisabeth Alzueta, María Melcón, Ole Jensen, Almudena Capilla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
158 Downloads (Pure)


Self-related information, such as one’s own face, is prioritized by our cognitive system. Whilst recent theoretical developments suggest that this is achieved by an interplay between bottom-up and top-down attentional mechanisms, their underlying neural dynamics are still poorly understood. Furthermore, it is still matter of discussion as to whether these attentional mechanisms are truly self-specific or instead driven by face familiarity. To address these questions, we used EEG to record the brain activity of twenty-five healthy participants whilst identifying their own face, a friend’s face and a stranger’s face. Time-frequency analysis revealed a greater sustained power decrease in the alpha and beta frequency bands for the self-face, which emerged at late latencies and was maintained even when the face was no longer present. Critically, source analysis showed that this activity was generated in key brain regions for self-face recognition, such as the fusiform gyrus. As in the Myth of Narcissus, our results indicate that one’s own face might have the potential to hijack attention. We suggest that this effect is specific to the self and driven by a top-down attentional control mechanism, which might facilitate further processing of personally relevant events.
Original languageEnglish
Article number116754
Number of pages9
Early online date16 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Alpha-beta band
  • Attention
  • Fusiform gyrus
  • Self-face
  • Self-processing


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