Objectives: In this functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) study, we investigated the activation of cerebral pathways involved in the elaboration of self-retracting photos (SELF) and the same pictures of others (OTHER). Each of the photographs showed one of the participants during different stages of the rehabilitation: pre-treatment (PRE), virtual planning using “Smile-Lynx” smile design software (VIR), and post-rehabilitation (POST). Methods: We selected eighteen volunteers, both male and female, between 22 and 67 years of age, who previously underwent prosthetic rehabilitation. Each of them was subjected to an fMRI acquisition. Various stimuli were then shown to the subjects in the form of self-retracting photographs and photographs of other participants, all in pseudo-randomized order. We then carried out a two- stage mixed-effects group data analysis with statistical contrast targeting two main effects: one regarding the main effect of Identity (SELF vs. OTHER) and the other regarding the effect of the prosthetic rehabilitation phase (PRE vs. VIR vs. POS). All the effects mentioned above survived a peak-level of p
< 0.05. Results: For the effect of identity, results reported the involvement of dorsolateral frontoparietal areas bilaterally. For the phase by identity effect, results reported activation in the supplementary motor area (SMA) in the right hemisphere. A stronger activation in observing self-retracting photos (SELF) post-treatment (POST) was reported compared to the other phases considered in the experiment. Conclusions: All the collected data showed differences regarding the main effect of Identity (SELF vs. OTHER). Most importantly, the present study provides some trend-wise evidence that the pictures portraying the subject in their actual physiognomy (POST) have a somewhat special status in eliciting selectively greater brain activation in the SMA. This effect was interpreted as a plausible correlate of an empathic response for beautiful and neutral faces. The present research suggests a possible way to measure self-perception of the subject after an appearance-altering procedure such an implant-prosthetic rehabilitation. However, future clinical studies are needed to investigate this matter further.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited