Specifying the brain anatomy underlying temporo-parietal junction activations for theory of mind: A review using probabilistic atlases from different imaging modalities

Hum Brain Mapp. 2017 Sep;38(9):4788-4805. doi: 10.1002/hbm.23675. Epub 2017 Jun 13.


In this quantitative review, we specified the anatomical basis of brain activity reported in the Temporo-Parietal Junction (TPJ) in Theory of Mind (ToM) research. Using probabilistic brain atlases, we labeled TPJ peak coordinates reported in the literature. This was carried out for four different atlas modalities: (i) gyral-parcellation, (ii) sulco-gyral parcellation, (iii) cytoarchitectonic parcellation and (iv) connectivity-based parcellation. In addition, our review distinguished between two ToM task types (false belief and social animations) and a nonsocial task (attention reorienting). We estimated the mean probabilities of activation for each atlas label, and found that for all three task types part of TPJ activations fell into the same areas: (i) Angular Gyrus (AG) and Lateral Occpital Cortex (LOC) in terms of a gyral atlas, (ii) AG and Superior Temporal Sulcus (STS) in terms of a sulco-gyral atlas, (iii) areas PGa and PGp in terms of cytoarchitecture and (iv) area TPJp in terms of a connectivity-based parcellation atlas. Beside these commonalities, we also found that individual task types showed preferential activation for particular labels. Main findings for the right hemisphere were preferential activation for false belief tasks in AG/PGa, and in Supramarginal Gyrus (SMG)/PFm for attention reorienting. Social animations showed strongest selective activation in the left hemisphere, specifically in left Middle Temporal Gyrus (MTG). We discuss how our results (i.e., identified atlas structures) can provide a new reference for describing future findings, with the aim to integrate different labels and terminologies used for studying brain activity around the TPJ. Hum Brain Mapp 38:4788-4805, 2017. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: angular gyrus; attention reorienting; mentalizing; neuroanatomy; social cognition; superior temporal sulcus.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Neuroimaging* / methods
  • Parietal Lobe / anatomy & histology*
  • Parietal Lobe / diagnostic imaging*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Temporal Lobe / anatomy & histology*
  • Temporal Lobe / diagnostic imaging*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology
  • Theory of Mind / physiology*