Rogier B. Mars, Jérôme Sallet, Franz-Xaver Neubert, and Matthew F. S. Rushworth
PNAS June 25, 2013 vol. 110 no. 26 10806-10811
The human ability to infer the thoughts and beliefs of others, often referred to as “theory of mind,” as well as the predisposition to even consider others, are associated with activity in the temporoparietal junction (TPJ) area. Unlike the case of most human brain areas, we have little sense of whether or how TPJ is related to brain areas in other nonhuman primates. It is not possible to address this question by looking for similar task-related activations in nonhuman primates because there is no evidence that nonhuman primates engage in theory-of-mind tasks in the same manner as humans. Here, instead, we explore the relationship by searching for areas in the macaque brain that interact with other macaque brain regions in the same manner as human TPJ interacts with other human brain regions. In other words, we look for brain regions with similar positions within a distributed neural circuit in the two species. We exploited the fact that human TPJ has a unique functional connectivity profile with cortical areas with known homologs in the macaque. For each voxel in the macaque temporal and parietal cortex we evaluated the similarity of its functional connectivity profile to that of human TPJ. We found that areas in the middle part of the superior temporal cortex, often associated with the processing of faces and other social stimuli, have the most similar connectivity profile. These results suggest that macaque face processing areas and human mentalizing areas might have a similar precursor.