Vollm BA, Taylor AN, Richardson P, Corcoran R, Stirling J, McKie S et al. Neuronal correlates of theory of mind and empathy: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study in a nonverbal task. Neuroimage 29: 90-98

Neuroscience and Psychiatry Unit, University of Manchester, Stopford Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PT, UK.
NeuroImage (Impact Factor: 6.36). 02/2006; 29(1):90-8. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2005.07.022
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Theory of Mind (ToM), the ability to attribute mental states to others, and empathy, the ability to infer emotional experiences, are important processes in social cognition. Brain imaging studies in healthy subjects have described a brain system involving medial prefrontal cortex, superior temporal sulcus and temporal pole in ToM processing. Studies investigating networks associated with empathic responding also suggest involvement of temporal and frontal lobe regions. In this fMRI study, we used a cartoon task derived from Sarfati et al. (1997) [Sarfati, Y., Hardy-Bayle, M.C., Besche, C., Widlocher, D. 1997. Attribution of intentions to others in people with schizophrenia: a non-verbal exploration with comic strips. Schizophrenia Research 25, 199-209.]with both ToM and empathy stimuli in order to allow comparison of brain activations in these two processes. Results of 13 right-handed, healthy, male volunteers were included. Functional images were acquired using a 1.5 T Phillips Gyroscan. Our results confirmed that ToM and empathy stimuli are associated with overlapping but distinct neuronal networks. Common areas of activation included the medial prefrontal cortex, temporoparietal junction and temporal poles. Compared to the empathy condition, ToM stimuli revealed increased activations in lateral orbitofrontal cortex, middle frontal gyrus, cuneus and superior temporal gyrus. Empathy, on the other hand, was associated with enhanced activations of paracingulate, anterior and posterior cingulate and amygdala. We therefore suggest that ToM and empathy both rely on networks associated with making inferences about mental states of others. However, empathic responding requires the additional recruitment of networks involved in emotional processing. These results have implications for our understanding of disorders characterized by impairments of social cognition, such as autism and psychopathy.

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    • "al . , 2010 ) , high - arousal emotional words ( Compton et al . , 2003 ) , and emotional film clips ( Goldin et al . , 2008 ) , as well as the evaluation of one ' s own emotional state ( Terasawa et al . , 2013a ) . Cuneus activation has also been associated with the ability to attribute mental states to others , termed ―theory of mind‖ ( ToM ) ( Vollm et al . , 2006 ) . A recent study reported that adult marijuana users had differences in brain activation compared with controls during a ToM task , including lower activation in the right cuneus ( Roser et al . , 2012 ) . Therefore , an impact of heavy marijuana use during adolescence on the functioning of occipital regions involved in the evaluation"
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    ABSTRACT: This work investigated the impact of heavy marijuana use during adolescence on emotional functioning, as well as the brain functional mediators of this effect. Participants (n = 40) were recruited from the Michigan Longitudinal Study (MLS). Data on marijuana use were collected prospectively beginning in childhood as part of the MLS. Participants were classified as heavy marijuana users (n = 20) or controls with minimal marijuana use. Two facets of emotional functioning—negative emotionality and resiliency (a self-regulatory mechanism)—were assessed as part of the MLS at three time points: mean age 13.4; mean age 19.6; and mean age 23.1. Functional neuroimaging data during an emotion-arousal word task were collected at mean age 20.2. Negative emotionality decreased and resiliency increased across the three time points in controls but not heavy marijuana users. Compared with controls, heavy marijuana users had less activation to negative words in temporal, prefrontal, and occipital cortices, insula, and amygdala. Activation of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex to negative words mediated an association between marijuana group and later negative emotionality. Activation of the cuneus/lingual gyrus mediated an association between marijuana group and later resiliency. Results support growing evidence that heavy marijuana use during adolescence affects later emotional outcomes.
    Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience 09/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.dcn.2015.09.003 · 3.83 Impact Factor
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    • "ToM requires an understanding of others' mental perspectives, whereas emotion understanding indexes the ability to recognize and label emotional expressions and appreciate how certain situations give rise to emotional reactions. While empathy additionally requires the ability to recognize how others would feel as a result of their different perspectives (V€ ollm et al., 2006), tasks typically used to assess emotion understanding (e.g., Denham, 1986) include a measure of the children's recognition that others may react differently from them in a particular situation. Poor ToM abilities relate to attention and impulsivity/hyperactivity problems (Fahie & Symons, 2003; Perner, Kain, & Barchfeld, 2002), which in turn are associated with the loss of control and aggression in response to provocation from peers (see Mu~ noz & Frick, 2012; for a review), and perceiving hostile intent in other people's actions even when these actions are ambiguous (Marsee & Frick, 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: Problems in understanding other people's mental states may relate to distinct personality traits that are associated with early externalizing behavior. A distinction between theory of mind (ToM) and empathy has proven important in shedding light on the problems in understanding other minds encountered by children high on callous-unemotional (CU) traits and exhibiting impulsivity. The aim of this study was to investigate whether children's early ToM and emotion understanding abilities predicted CU traits and impulsivity at age 10. A further aim was to explore whether the quality of the parent-child relationship very early in the development indirectly or directly predicted the children's CU traits and impulsivity. We examined whether ToM and empathy skills might differentially relate to personality traits associated with externalizing behaviors (i.e., impulsivity and CU traits). We examined these relations over time in a longitudinal cohort of 96 boys and girls using follow-back analyses, incorporating measures of maternal mind-mindedness (appropriate mind-related talk) to examine the possible role of parent-child interaction quality. Appropriate mind-related talk indirectly predicted CU traits (at age 10 years) via its effect on children's emotion understanding. ToM predicted impulsive/irresponsible traits, but ceased to be significant when controlling for externalizing behaviors. The present findings demonstrate that parents who remark appropriately on their infant's mental states may help the child to understand emotions and may mold an empathic understanding of others, thereby preventing CU traits. © 2015 The Authors. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health.
    Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 07/2015; DOI:10.1111/jcpp.12445 · 6.46 Impact Factor
    • "The final two regions comprise heteromodal association cortex; BA11 (orbital frontal cortex) and BA40 (inferior parietal cortex), both of which have been identified as contributing to theory of mind (Sabbagh, 2004; Vö llm et al., 2006; Carrington and Bailey, 2009; Abu-Akel and Shamay- Tsoory, 2011; Brink et al., 2011). This range of cortical regions enabled us to address the suggestion that there is reduced cortical differentiation in ASD (Voineagu et al., 2011; Ziats and Rennert, 2013). "
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    Brain 05/2015; 138(7). DOI:10.1093/brain/awv110 · 9.20 Impact Factor
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