Changes of brain activity in the neural substrates for theory of mind during childhood and adolescence

Authors

  • YOSHIYA MORIGUCHI md , phd,

    1. Department of Psychosomatic Research, National Institute of Mental Health, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, Kodaira,
    2. Department of Radiology, National Center Hospital for Mental, Nervous, and Muscular Disorders, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, Kodaira
    3. Department of Nuclear Medicine, Saitama Medical School Hospital, Iruma,
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  • TAKASHI OHNISHI md , phd,

    1. Department of Radiology, National Center Hospital for Mental, Nervous, and Muscular Disorders, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, Kodaira
    2. Department of Investigative Radiology, Research Institute of National Cardiovascular Center, Osaka and
    3. Department of Mental Disorder Research, National Institute of Neuroscience, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, Kodaira, Japan
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  • TAKEYUKI MORI md , phd,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Radiology, National Center Hospital for Mental, Nervous, and Muscular Disorders, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, Kodaira
    2. Department of Mental Disorder Research, National Institute of Neuroscience, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, Kodaira, Japan
      Takashi Ohnishi, MD, PhD, Department of Radiology, National Center Hospital for Mental, Nervous, and Muscular Disorders, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, 4-1-1, Ogawa-Higashi Cho, Kodaira City, Tokyo 187–8551, Japan. Email: tohnishi@hotmail.com
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  • HIROSHI MATSUDA md , phd,

    1. Department of Radiology, National Center Hospital for Mental, Nervous, and Muscular Disorders, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, Kodaira
    2. Department of Nuclear Medicine, Saitama Medical School Hospital, Iruma,
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  • GEN KOMAKI md , phd

    1. Department of Psychosomatic Research, National Institute of Mental Health, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, Kodaira,
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Takashi Ohnishi, MD, PhD, Department of Radiology, National Center Hospital for Mental, Nervous, and Muscular Disorders, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, 4-1-1, Ogawa-Higashi Cho, Kodaira City, Tokyo 187–8551, Japan. Email: tohnishi@hotmail.com

Abstract

Abstract  Theory of mind (ToM) refers to the ability to attribute independent mental states, such as beliefs, preferences and desires, to the self and others. Neuroimaging studies of normal adults have consistently demonstrated the importance of particular brain regions for ToM, the superior temporal sulcus (STS), temporal pole (TP) and the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC). However, there are little data showing how ToM develops during childhood and adolescence. Such data are important for understanding the development of social functioning and its disorders. The authors used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study age-related changes in brain activity associated with ToM during childhood and early adolescence (9–16 years). Normally developed children and adolescents demonstrated significant activation in the bilateral STS, the TP adjacent to the amygdala (TP/Amy) and the MPFC. Furthermore, the authors found a positive correlation between age and the degree of activation in the dorsal part of the MPFC; in contrast, a negative correlation was found for the ventral part of the MPFC. The authors also found a positive correlation between the Z coordinate of the peak activation in the MPFC and age. The data indicated that activity in the MPFC associated with ToM shifted from the ventral to the dorsal part of the MPFC during late childhood and adolescence. No age-related changes were found in the STS and the TP/Amy regions. The authors consider that the age-related brain activity observed in the present study may be associated with the maturation of the prefrontal cortex and the associated development of cognitive functions.

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