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Brain Res Bull. 2010 Oct 30;83(5):214-22. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2010.08.008. Epub 2010 Aug 20.

Mindreading in individuals with an empathizing versus systemizing cognitive style: An fMRI study.

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1
Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences, Ghent University, Belgium. farah.focquaert@ugent.be

Abstract

Our fMRI study compares the neural correlates of face-based mindreading in healthy individuals with an empathizing (n=12) versus systemizing cognitive style (n=12). The empathizing group consists of individuals that score high on empathizing and low on systemizing, while the systemizing group consists of individuals with an opposite cognitive pattern. We hypothesize that the empathizing group will show stronger simulation-type neural activity (e.g., in mirror neuron areas, medial prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex) or simulation-related neural activity (e.g., in areas involved in perspective taking and experiential processing) compared to the systemizing group. As hypothesized, our study reveals that the empathizing group shows significantly stronger activity in mirror neuron areas of the brain, such as the left inferior frontal gyrus and inferior parietal lobe, and in temporal areas involved in perspective taking and autobiographical memory. Moreover, the empathizing group, but not the systemizing group, shows activity in the medial prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex which have been related to simulation-type neural activity in the brain and are central to mindreading. Also, the systemizing group shows significantly stronger activity in the left parahippocampal gyrus. In conclusion, both the empathizing and systemizing individuals show simulation-type and simulation-related neural activity during face-based mindreading. However, more neural activity indicative of simulation-based processing is seen in the empathizing individuals, while more neural activity indicative of non-simulation-based processing is seen in the systemizing individuals.

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