Fractionating theory of mind: a meta-analysis of functional brain imaging studies

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2014 May:42:9-34. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.01.009. Epub 2014 Jan 31.


We meta-analyzed imaging studies on theory of mind and formed individual task groups based on stimuli and instructions. Overlap in brain activation between all task groups was found in the mPFC and in the bilateral posterior TPJ. This supports the idea of a core network for theory of mind that is activated whenever we are reasoning about mental states, irrespective of the task- and stimulus-formats (Mar, 2011). In addition, we found a number of task-related activation differences surrounding this core-network. ROI based analyses show that areas in the TPJ, the mPFC, the precuneus, the temporal lobes and the inferior frontal gyri have distinct profiles of task-related activation. Functional accounts of these areas are reviewed and discussed with respect to our findings.

Keywords: Anterior temporal lobe; Inferior frontal gyrus; Medial prefrontal cortex; Mentalizing; Meta-analysis; Precuneus; Task groups; Temporo-parietal junction; Theory of mind.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Functional Neuroimaging
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Theory of Mind / physiology*