This research was supported by the Ellison Medical Foundation, the Packard Foundation, the John Merck Scholars Program, and the NSF Career Award awarded to R.S. and Ewha 21st Century Scholarship awarded to H.G. The functional imaging data were collected at Athinoula A. Martinos Imaging Center at McGovern Institute for Brain Research, MIT. Thanks to Laura Schulz for helpful suggestions and comments, to Hannah Pelton, Ali Horowitz, and Michelle Garber for help with stimulus construction, and to Ellen Olson-Brown for making this research possible. Also many thanks to the participants and their families.
Theory of Mind Performance in Children Correlates With Functional Specialization of a Brain Region for Thinking About Thoughts
Version of Record online: 31 JUL 2012
© 2012 The Authors. Child Development © 2012 Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.
Volume 83, Issue 6, pages 1853–1868, November/December 2012
How to Cite
Gweon, H., Dodell-Feder, D., Bedny, M. and Saxe, R. (2012), Theory of Mind Performance in Children Correlates With Functional Specialization of a Brain Region for Thinking About Thoughts. Child Development, 83: 1853–1868. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01829.x
- Issue online: 16 NOV 2012
- Version of Record online: 31 JUL 2012
Thinking about other people’s thoughts recruits a specific group of brain regions, including the temporo-parietal junctions (TPJ), precuneus (PC), and medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC). The same brain regions were recruited when children (N = 20, 5–11 years) and adults (N = 8) listened to descriptions of characters’ mental states, compared to descriptions of physical events. Between ages 5 and 11 years, responses in the bilateral TPJ became increasingly specific to stories describing mental states as opposed to people’s appearance and social relationships. Functional activity in the right TPJ was related to children’s performance on a high level theory of mind task. These findings provide insights into the origin of neural mechanisms of theory of mind, and how behavioral and neural changes can be related in development.