Left inferior parietal lobe engagement in social cognition and language

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2016 Sep;68:319-334. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.02.024. Epub 2016 May 27.


Social cognition and language are two core features of the human species. Despite distributed recruitment of brain regions in each mental capacity, the left parietal lobe (LPL) represents a zone of topographical convergence. The present study quantitatively summarizes hundreds of neuroimaging studies on social cognition and language. Using connectivity-based parcellation on a meta-analytically defined volume of interest (VOI), regional coactivation patterns within this VOI allowed identifying distinct subregions. Across parcellation solutions, two clusters emerged consistently in rostro-ventral and caudo-ventral aspects of the parietal VOI. Both clusters were functionally significantly associated with social-cognitive and language processing. In particular, the rostro-ventral cluster was associated with lower-level processing facets, while the caudo-ventral cluster was associated with higher-level processing facets in both mental capacities. Contrarily, in the (less stable) dorsal parietal VOI, all clusters reflected computation of general-purpose processes, such as working memory and matching tasks, that are frequently co-recruited by social or language processes. Our results hence favour a rostro-caudal distinction of lower- versus higher-level processes underlying social cognition and language in the left inferior parietal lobe.

Keywords: Connectivity-based parcellation; Functional connectivity; Functional decoding; Speech; Statistical learning; Theory of mind.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping
  • Cognition*
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neural Pathways
  • Parietal Lobe*