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:
Völlm et al (2006). Neuronal correlates of theory of mind and empathy: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study in a nonverbal task. Neuroimage, 29, 90-98. By: Shahin Khayambashi
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.
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.
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.
Subjects: 15, right-handed, healthy males. University students. Average age: 24.9. 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.
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.
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.
Different areas of the brain activated: More activation of orbitofrontal cortex in theory of mind processing. More activation of left amygdala in empathy processing.
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.
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.