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      Development of the social brain from age three to twelve years

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          Abstract

          Human adults recruit distinct networks of brain regions to think about the bodies and minds of others. This study characterizes the development of these networks, and tests for relationships between neural development and behavioral changes in reasoning about others’ minds (‘theory of mind’, ToM). A large sample of children ( n = 122, 3–12 years), and adults ( n = 33), watched a short movie while undergoing fMRI. The movie highlights the characters’ bodily sensations (often pain) and mental states (beliefs, desires, emotions), and is a feasible experiment for young children. Here we report three main findings: (1) ToM and pain networks are functionally distinct by age 3 years, (2) functional specialization increases throughout childhood, and (3) functional maturity of each network is related to increasingly anti-correlated responses between the networks. Furthermore, the most studied milestone in ToM development, passing explicit false-belief tasks, does not correspond to discontinuities in the development of the social brain.

          Abstract

          Though adults’ brains process the internal states of others’ bodies versus others’ minds in distinct brain regions, it is not clear when this functional dissociation emerges. Here, authors study 3–12 year olds and show that these networks are distinct by age 3 and become even more distinct with age.

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          People thinking about thinking people. The role of the temporo-parietal junction in "theory of mind".

          Humans powerfully and flexibly interpret the behaviour of other people based on an understanding of their minds: that is, we use a "theory of mind." In this study we distinguish theory of mind, which represents another person's mental states, from a representation of the simple presence of another person per se. The studies reported here establish for the first time that a region in the human temporo-parietal junction (here called the TPJ-M) is involved specifically in reasoning about the contents of another person's mind. First, the TPJ-M was doubly dissociated from the nearby extrastriate body area (EBA; Downing et al., 2001). Second, the TPJ-M does not respond to false representations in non-social control stories. Third, the BOLD response in the TPJ-M bilaterally was higher when subjects read stories about a character's mental states, compared with stories that described people in physical detail, which did not differ from stories about nonhuman objects. Thus, the role of the TPJ-M in understanding other people appears to be specific to reasoning about the content of mental states.
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            People thinking about thinking peopleThe role of the temporo-parietal junction in “theory of mind”

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              The Dimensional Change Card Sort (DCCS): a method of assessing executive function in children.

              The dimensional change card sort (DCCS) is an easily administered and widely used measure of executive function that is suitable for use with participants across a wide range of ages. In the standard version, children are required to sort a series of bivalent test cards, first according to one dimension (e.g., color), and then according to the other (e.g., shape). Most 3-year-olds perseverate during the post-switch phase, exhibiting a pattern of inflexibility similar to that seen in patients with prefrontal cortical damage. By 5 years of age, most children switch when instructed to do so. Performance on the DCCS provides an index of the development of executive function, and it is impaired in children with disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism. We describe the protocol for the standard version (duration = 5 min) and the more challenging border version (duration = 5 min), which may be used with children as old as 7 years.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                hlrich@mit.edu
                Journal
                Nat Commun
                Nat Commun
                Nature Communications
                Nature Publishing Group UK (London )
                2041-1723
                12 March 2018
                12 March 2018
                2018
                : 9
                : 1027
                Affiliations
                [1 ]ISNI 0000 0001 2341 2786, GRID grid.116068.8, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, , Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ; Cambridge, MA 02139 USA
                [2 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1936 9561, GRID grid.268091.4, Department of Psychology, , Wellesley College, ; Wellesley, MA 02481 USA
                Author information
                http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3444-805X
                Article
                3399
                10.1038/s41467-018-03399-2
                5847587
                29531321
                b4bca61a-95cc-422d-b59a-8b97449e1097
                © The Author(s) 2018

                Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

                History
                : 31 March 2017
                : 7 February 2018
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