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Völlm et al (2006). Neuronal correlates of theory of mind and empathy: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study in a nonverbal task. Neuroimage, 29,

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Presentation on theme: "Völlm et al (2006). Neuronal correlates of theory of mind and empathy: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study in a nonverbal task. Neuroimage, 29,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Völlm et al (2006). Neuronal correlates of theory of mind and empathy: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study in a nonverbal task. Neuroimage, 29, By: Shahin Khayambashi

2 Humans are very social species. This is largely due to our ability to detect cognitive and emotional processes in other: Theory of Mind: The attribution of mental states such as desires, intentions, and beliefs to others. Understanding the mental state of others and using it to predict their behaviours. Empathy: The ability to infer and share the emotional experiences of others.

3 Two theories behind the development of empathy and theory of mind: 1. Theory-theory: Result of learning, memory, and experience. 2. Simulation theory: Innate and intuitive.  Recent studies show activation in medial prefrontal cortex, superior temporal sulcus, and temporal pole during theory of mind processing.  Recent studies also show activations of temporal and frontal lobe regions during empathy.  This, in accordance with the discovery of mirror neurons, provide more support for the simulation theory.

4 However, there has been some proof of the dissociation of theory of mind and empathy.  Autism  Psychopathic populations The purpose of the this study is to link the two processes and investigate the neuronal correlates of theory of mind and empathy in healthy volunteers using a visual cartoon task. Hypothesis: Both conditions would activate temporal lobes and medial prefrontal cortex. In addition, processing of empathic stimuli would also rely on affective networks, particularly the amygdala.

5 Subjects:  15, right-handed, healthy males.  University students.  Average age:  2 subjects later excluded.  Screened for substance use.  IQ within normal range (94-122). Materials:  fMRI images using 1.5T Philips Gyroscan ACS NT  Comic Strips.  Laptop computer to project stimuli in fMRI scanner. Procedure:  Four conditions: 1. Theory of mind. 2. Empathy. 3. Physical casualty 1 char. 4. Physical casualty 2 char.  Each subject is tested twice for each condition (8 tests).  Each test contains 5 different comic strips depicting a short story on the upper half of the screen.  Then two pictures showing possible outcomes show up on the bottom half, only one is correct.

6 Procedure (cont’d):  Physical 1 control for theory of mind, physical 2 control for empathy.  Participants had 6s to read initial question, 6s to analyze comic strips, and 4.5s to answer the outcome.  Initial questions used to engage the corresponding construct in the participants: 1. What will the main character do next? (theory of mind) 2. What will make the main character feel better? (empathy) 3. What is most likely to happen next? (physical 1 and physical 2)  Unanswered outcomes treated as incorrect answers.  Neural responses theory of mind minus neural responses of physical 1 to reveal increased signal association with theory of mind processing.  Neural responses empathy minus neural responses of physical 2 to reveal increased signal association with empathy processing.

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8 Common areas of the brain activated:  Bilateral temporoparietal junction, temporal poles, inferior temporal gyri extending from the fusyform gyri, medial prefrontal cortex, right orbitofrontal cortex, and cerebellum.

9 Different areas of the brain activated:  More activation of orbitofrontal cortex in theory of mind processing.  More activation of left amygdala in empathy processing.

10  Mostly same brain areas activated.  Some difference in activation (orbitofrontal cortex and left amygdala).  Paracingulate cortex and empathy.  Interactions.  Emotional and visuospatial processing.  Right-sided activations and theory of mind  Right hemisphere strokes  Psychopathy: Impaired development of amygdala.  Physical 2 too difficult to interpret.  Increased coherence of empathy condition, increased activation.  Empathy vs. social norm.

11  Autism and the right lateral hemisphere?  Mirror neurons.  Nature Vs. Nurture.  Conduct study with babies or children.  Why only males?  Compare study with females.  Questions answered incorrectly?  Physical 2.  Difficult study, well conducted.

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