Neuroimaging studies of mentalizing (i.e., theory of mind) consistently implicate the default mode network (DMN). Nevertheless, the social cognitive functions of individual DMN regions remain unclear, perhaps due to limited spatiotemporal resolution in neuroimaging. Here we use electrocorticography (ECoG) to directly record neuronal population activity while 16 human participants judge the psychological traits of themselves and others. Self- and other-mentalizing recruit near-identical cortical sites in a common spatiotemporal sequence. Activations begin in the visual cortex, followed by temporoparietal DMN regions, then finally in medial prefrontal regions. Moreover, regions with later activations exhibit stronger functional specificity for mentalizing, stronger associations with behavioral responses, and stronger self/other differentiation. Specifically, other-mentalizing evokes slower and longer activations than self-mentalizing across successive DMN regions, implying lengthier processing at higher levels of representation. Our results suggest a common neurocognitive pathway for self- and other-mentalizing that follows a complex spatiotemporal gradient of functional specialization across DMN and beyond.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s41467-022-29510-2
View details for PubMedID 35395826