What Happens In The Brain When We Think About Others?
Activity in a certain region of the brain changes as children learn to reason about what other people might be thinking, reports Medical News Today:
“At around the age of 4 or 5, children begin to think and reason about other people’s thoughts and emotions; they start to develop a skill that scientists call ‘theory of mind.’
Now, a new study shows that a region of the brain that was already known to be involved in the use of this skill in adults, changes its pattern of activity in children as they begin to acquire theory of mind reasoning for themselves.
Neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe and her colleagues at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) , suggest their findings provide a good basis for studying theory of mind impairments in autistic children.
They write about their work in a paper published online on 31 July in the journal Child Development.
In earlier research, she had already established where theory of mind sits in the adult brain: it occupies a region known as the right temporo-parietal junction (TPJ).
In this latest study, Saxe and her team show that activity in the TPJ changes as children learn to employ theory of mind.
The findings suggest that as children age, the right TPJ becomes more specific to theory of mind, and over time, its patterns of activity look more like those of adults.
The researchers also found the children who did better in tasks where they needed to use theory of mind, were those whose right TPJ was particularly active when they listened to stories about other people’s thoughts.” Read more here.
Would be really interesting to use this approach to study whether specific interventions aimed at enhancing children’s theory of mind have a measurable effect on the activity in this area of the brain.