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Keywords:

  • frontopolar cortex;
  • inferior parietal lobule;
  • intersubjectivity;
  • self;
  • other distinction;
  • somatosensory cortex;
  • theory of mind;
  • thoughts inhibition

Abstract

Social communication requires shared representations as well as a cognitive flexibility for successful interactions between self and other. What neural mechanisms underlie the ability to distinguish between our own perspective vs. the perspective of others at a conceptual level? In this PET study subjects who were medical students were asked according to the experimental conditions to respond to a list of health-related questions, taking either their own perspective or the perspective of a ‘lay person’. Third-person perspective as compared to first-person perspective was associated with activation in the medial part of the superior frontal gyrus, in the left superior temporal sulcus, in the left temporal pole and in the right inferior parietal lobe. The reverse comparison revealed a specific activation in the postcentral gyrus for the first-person conceptual perspective. This study provides congruent results at the conceptual level with previous studies investigating the neural correlates of self/other distinction at the motor level, and opens a new area of research in which conceptual cognition can be viewed in the continuity of motor cognition.