A neurobiological mapping of theory of mind

Brain Res Brain Res Rev. 2003 Sep;43(1):29-40. doi: 10.1016/s0165-0173(03)00190-5.


This paper attempts, based on a review of a wide range of clinical, biobehavioral and neuroanatomical studies, to account for the various theory of mind impairments observed in psychiatric and developmental disorders in a single neurobiological model. The proposed model is composed of a representational component subserved by posterior brain regions (temporal and parietal) and an application/execution component subserved by prefrontal regions. Information processed in posterior regions is relayed through a limbic-paralimbic system, which is essential for the implementation of theory of mind processes. In addition to its clinical implications, the proposed model accounts for (1) the ability to mentalize about both the self and others, (2) the nature of the anatomic connections of the various brain regions and their functional correlates, and (3) theories pertaining to the inferencing mechanisms used during mental representation/attribution.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / anatomy & histology
  • Limbic System / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Psychophysiology*
  • Self Concept
  • Social Behavior*