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Functional connectivity during a social emotion task in adolescents and in adults


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Stephanie Burnett, as above.
E-mail: burstephanie@gmail.com


In this fMRI study we investigated functional connectivity between components of the mentalising system during a social emotion task, using psychophysiological interaction (PPI) analysis. Ten adults (22–32 years) and 18 adolescents (11–18 years) were scanned while thinking about scenarios in which a social or a basic emotion would be experienced. Unlike basic emotions (such as disgust and fear), social emotions (such as embarrassment and guilt) require the representation of another’s mental states. In both adults and adolescents, an anterior rostral region of medial prefrontal cortex (arMPFC) involved in mentalising showed greater connectivity with the posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) bordering on the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) and with anterior temporal cortex (ATC) during social than during basic emotion. This result provides novel evidence that components of the mentalising system interact functionally during a social emotion task. Furthermore, functional connectivity differed between adolescence and adulthood. The adolescent group showed stronger connectivity between arMPFC and pSTS/TPJ during social relative to basic emotion than did the adult group, suggestive of developmental changes in functional integration within the mentalising system.