Gamma-band activity in the human superior temporal sulcus during mentalizing from nonverbal social cues

Psychophysiology. 2009 Jan;46(1):43-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2008.00724.x. Epub 2008 Oct 16.


The posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) is a key structure for our ability to infer others' mental states based on social cues including facial expressions, body posture, and gestures ("mentalizing"), but the neural mechanisms of this ability remain largely unknown. We recorded electrocorticogram directly from the pSTS in humans to show that enhanced neural oscillations in the gamma frequency range (35-55 Hz) accompany mentalizing. One patient with a lesion in pSTS was tested behaviorally on this task; he was unable to infer a virtual character's preferences from nonverbal social cues. Enhanced coherent gamma oscillations in the patients with intact pSTS may reflect a process by which social signals are bound into a unified representation to support mentalizing. This may be relevant for other social cognitive processes, as well as to the study of autism spectrum disorders, for which both mentalizing deficits and abnormal gamma activity have been reported.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cues*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Epilepsy / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Social Perception*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*