Neural correlates of self- and other-referential processing in young adolescents and the effects of testosterone and peer similarity

Mariët van Buuren*, Reubs J. Walsh, Hester Sijtsma, Miriam Hollarek, Nikki C. Lee, Peter A. Bos, Lydia Krabbendam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


During adolescence, self-concept develops profoundly, accompanied by major changes in hormone levels. Self-evaluations become more complex, and peers and their opinions increasingly salient. Neuroimaging studies have investigated self- and other-related processing in adolescents, however, the influence of similarity of peers on these processes is still unclear, as well as functional connectivity underlying such processes. We investigated the effect of peer similarity on neural activity and connectivity underlying self- and other-referential processing, by distinguishing between a similar and dissimilar peer when making other-evaluations. Moreover, we explored the association between testosterone and brain activity during self-evaluations. Sixty-six young adolescents underwent functional MRI while performing a trait judgement task in which they indicated whether an adjective described themselves, a similar or a dissimilar classmate. The ventral medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) showed increased engagement in self-referential processing, and the posterior cingulate cortex and right temporal parietal junction during other-evaluations. However, activity did not differ between the similar and dissimilar other conditions. Functional connectivity of the ventral MPFC included the striatum when evaluating the similar peer and frontoparietal regions when evaluating the dissimilar peer. Furthermore, inter-individual differences in testosterone levels were positively associated with dorsal MPFC activity in males. This study provides insight into the influence of peer similarity on activity and connectivity underlying other-referential processing in young adolescents, and suggests that testosterone affects neural correlates of self-referential processing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117060
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


This work was supported by the European Research Council (ERC Consolidator grant, grant number 648082 , to L.K.).

FundersFunder number
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme648082
European Research Council


    • Adolescence
    • fMRI
    • Medial prefrontal cortex
    • Peer similarity
    • Self
    • Testosterone


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