Brain activation during a social attribution task in adolescents with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury

Soc Neurosci. 2011;6(5-6):582-98. doi: 10.1080/17470919.2011.588844. Epub 2011 Jul 21.


The ability to make accurate judgments about the mental states of others, sometimes referred to as theory of mind (ToM), is often impaired following traumatic brain injury (TBI), and this deficit may contribute to problems with interpersonal relationships. The present study used an animated social attribution task (SAT) with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine structures mediating ToM in adolescents with moderate to severe TBI. The study design also included a comparison group of matched, typically developing (TD) adolescents. The TD group exhibited activation within a number of areas that are thought to be relevant to ToM, including the medial prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex, fusiform gyrus, and posterior temporal and parietal areas. The TBI subjects had significant activation within many of these same areas, but their activation was generally more intense and excluded the medial prefrontal cortex. Exploratory regression analyses indicated a negative relation between ToM-related activation and measures of white matter integrity derived from diffusion tensor imaging, while there was also a positive relation between activation and lesion volume. These findings are consistent with alterations in the level and pattern of brain activation that may be due to the combined influence of diffuse axonal injury and focal lesions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain Injuries / pathology*
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Brain Injuries / psychology
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Theory of Mind / physiology*
  • Young Adult