A Shared Neural Substrate for Mentalizing and the Affective Component of Sentence Comprehension

Pierre-Yves Hervé, Annick Razafimandimby, Gaël Jobard, Nathalie Tzourio-Mazoyer
PLoS ONE. 2013-01-16; 8(1): e54400
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054400

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1. PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e54400. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054400. Epub 2013 Jan 16.

A shared neural substrate for mentalizing and the affective component of sentence

Hervé PY(1), Razafimandimby A, Jobard G, Tzourio-Mazoyer N.

Author information:
(1)Groupe d’Imagerie Neurofonctionnelle, UMR 5296, Univ. Bordeaux, Bordeaux,
Aquitaine, France.

Using event-related fMRI in a sample of 42 healthy participants, we compared the
cerebral activity maps obtained when classifying spoken sentences based on the
mental content of the main character (belief, deception or empathy) or on the
emotional tonality of the sentence (happiness, anger or sadness). To control for
the effects of different syntactic constructions (such as embedded clauses in
belief sentences), we subtracted from each map the BOLD activations obtained
during plausibility judgments on structurally matching sentences, devoid of
emotions or ToM. The obtained theory of mind (ToM) and emotional speech
comprehension networks overlapped in the bilateral temporo-parietal junction,
posterior cingulate cortex, right anterior temporal lobe, dorsomedial prefrontal
cortex and in the left inferior frontal sulcus. These regions form a ToM network,
which contributes to the emotional component of spoken sentence comprehension.
Compared with the ToM task, in which the sentences were enounced on a neutral
tone, the emotional sentence classification task, in which the sentences were
play-acted, was associated with a greater activity in the bilateral superior
temporal sulcus, in line with the presence of emotional prosody. Besides, the
ventromedial prefrontal cortex was more active during emotional than ToM sentence
processing. This region may link mental state representations with verbal and
prosodic emotional cues. Compared with emotional sentence classification, ToM was
associated with greater activity in the caudate nucleus, paracingulate cortex,
and superior frontal and parietal regions, in line with behavioral data showing
that ToM sentence comprehension was a more demanding task.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054400
PMCID: PMC3547007
PMID: 23342148 [Indexed for MEDLINE]

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