Representation, control, or reasoning? Distinct functions for theory of mind within the medial prefrontal cortex


The medial pFC (mPFC) is frequently reported to play a central role in Theory of Mind (ToM). However, the contribution of this large cortical region in ToM is not well understood. Combining a novel behavioral task with fMRI, we sought to demonstrate functional divisions between dorsal and rostral mPFC. All conditions of the task required the representation of mental states (beliefs and desires). The level of demands on cognitive control (high vs. low) and the nature of the demands on reasoning (deductive vs. abductive) were varied orthogonally between conditions. Activation in dorsal mPFC was modulated by the need for control, whereas rostral mPFC was modulated by reasoning demands. These findings fit with previously suggested domain-general functions for different parts of mPFC and suggest that these functions are recruited selectively in the service of ToM.

Publication DOI:
Divisions: College of Health & Life Sciences
Additional Information: © 2014 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Uncontrolled Keywords: theory of mind,brain mapping,cognition,culture,task performance and analysis,social perception,judgment,magnetic resonance imaging,neuropsychological tests,prefrontal cortex,reaction time
Publication ISSN: 1530-8898
Last Modified: 08 Jan 2024 08:09
Date Deposited: 07 Jul 2016 12:50
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Related URLs: ... 62/jocn_a_00520 (Publisher URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2014-04
Published Online Date: 2014-02-28
Authors: Hartwright, Charlotte E. (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-1197-7541)
Apperly, Ian A.
Hansen, Peter C.



Version: Published Version

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