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      The role of the right temporoparietal junction in social interaction: how low-level computational processes contribute to meta-cognition.

      The Neuroscientist

      Attention, physiology, Brain Mapping, Cognition, Functional Laterality, Humans, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, methods, Interpersonal Relations, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Oxygen, blood, Parietal Lobe, blood supply, Temporal Lobe

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          Abstract

          Accumulating evidence from cognitive neuroscience indicates that the right inferior parietal cortex, at the junction with the posterior temporal cortex, plays a critical role in various aspects of social cognition such as theory of mind and empathy. With a quantitative meta-analysis of 70 functional neuroimaging studies, the authors demonstrate that this area is also engaged in lower-level (bottom-up) computational processes associated with the sense of agency and reorienting attention to salient stimuli. It is argued that this domain-general computational mechanism is crucial for higher level social cognitive processing.

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          Most cited references 23

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          The functional architecture of human empathy.

          Empathy accounts for the naturally occurring subjective experience of similarity between the feelings expressed by self and others without loosing sight of whose feelings belong to whom. Empathy involves not only the affective experience of the other person's actual or inferred emotional state but also some minimal recognition and understanding of another's emotional state. In light of multiple levels of analysis ranging from developmental psychology, social psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and clinical neuropsychology, this article proposes a model of empathy that involves parallel and distributed processing in a number of dissociable computational mechanisms. Shared neural representations, self-awareness, mental flexibility, and emotion regulation constitute the basic macrocomponents of empathy, which are underpinned by specific neural systems. This functional model may be used to make specific predictions about the various empathy deficits that can be encountered in different forms of social and neurological disorders.
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            The neural substrate of human empathy: effects of perspective-taking and cognitive appraisal.

            Whether observation of distress in others leads to empathic concern and altruistic motivation, or to personal distress and egoistic motivation, seems to depend upon the capacity for self-other differentiation and cognitive appraisal. In this experiment, behavioral measures and event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging were used to investigate the effects of perspective-taking and cognitive appraisal while participants observed the facial expression of pain resulting from medical treatment. Video clips showing the faces of patients were presented either with the instruction to imagine the feelings of the patient ("imagine other") or to imagine oneself to be in the patient's situation ("imagine self"). Cognitive appraisal was manipulated by providing information that the medical treatment had or had not been successful. Behavioral measures demonstrated that perspective-taking and treatment effectiveness instructions affected participants' affective responses to the observed pain. Hemodynamic changes were detected in the insular cortices, anterior medial cingulate cortex (aMCC), amygdala, and in visual areas including the fusiform gyrus. Graded responses related to the perspective-taking instructions were observed in middle insula, aMCC, medial and lateral premotor areas, and selectively in left and right parietal cortices. Treatment effectiveness resulted in signal changes in the perigenual anterior cingulate cortex, in the ventromedial orbito-frontal cortex, in the right lateral middle frontal gyrus, and in the cerebellum. These findings support the view that humans' responses to the pain of others can be modulated by cognitive and motivational processes, which influence whether observing a conspecific in need of help will result in empathic concern, an important instigator for helping behavior.
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              Making sense of another mind: the role of the right temporo-parietal junction.

              Human adults conceive of one another as beings with minds, and attribute to one another mental states like perceptions, desires and beliefs. That is, we understand other people using a 'Theory of Mind'. The current study investigated the contributions of four brain regions to Theory of Mind reasoning. The right temporo-parietal junction (RTPJ) was recruited selectively for the attribution of mental states, and not for other socially relevant facts about a person, and the response of the RTPJ was modulated by the congruence or incongruence of multiple relevant facts about the target's mind. None of the other three brain regions commonly implicated in Theory of Mind reasoning--the left temporo-parietal junction (LTPJ), posterior cingulate (PC) and medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC)--showed an equally selective profile of response. The implications of these results for an alternative theory of reasoning about other minds--Simulation Theory--are discussed.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                17911216
                10.1177/1073858407304654

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