Shared neural circuits for mentalizing about the self and others.
Lombardo MV., Chakrabarti B., Bullmore ET., Wheelwright SJ., Sadek SA., Suckling J., MRC AIMS Consortium None., Baron-Cohen S.
Although many examples exist for shared neural representations of self and other, it is unknown how such shared representations interact with the rest of the brain. Furthermore, do high-level inference-based shared mentalizing representations interact with lower level embodied/simulation-based shared representations? We used functional neuroimaging (fMRI) and a functional connectivity approach to assess these questions during high-level inference-based mentalizing. Shared mentalizing representations in ventromedial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate/precuneus, and temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) all exhibited identical functional connectivity patterns during mentalizing of both self and other. Connectivity patterns were distributed across low-level embodied neural systems such as the frontal operculum/ventral premotor cortex, the anterior insula, the primary sensorimotor cortex, and the presupplementary motor area. These results demonstrate that identical neural circuits are implementing processes involved in mentalizing of both self and other and that the nature of such processes may be the integration of low-level embodied processes within higher level inference-based mentalizing.