Neural correlates of theory of mind in typically-developing youth: Influence of sex, age and callous-unemotional traits

Yidian Gao, Jack C. Rogers, Ruth Pauli, Roberta Clanton, Rosalind Baker, Philippa Birch, Lisandra Ferreira, Abigail Brown, Christine M. Freitag, Graeme Fairchild, Pia Rotshtein, Stephane A. De Brito

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Theory of mind (ToM), or the ability to infer and predict the intentions, thoughts and beliefs of others, involves cognitive perspective taking (cognitive ToM/cToM) and understanding emotions (affective ToM/aToM). While behavioral evidence indicates that ToM is influenced by sex and age, no study has examined the influence of these variables on the neural correlates of cToM and aToM in late childhood/adolescence. Using fMRI with 35 typically-developing youths (aged 9-18 years, 12 males), we investigated the influence of sex and age on the neural correlates of cToM and aToM. We also examined how callous-unemotional traits, indexing a lack of empathy, were related to brain responses during aToM. Across both conditions, we found convergent activity in ToM network regions, such as superior temporal sulcus/temporoparietal junction (TPJ) and precuneus across males and females, but males recruited the left TPJ significantly more than females during cToM. During aToM, age was negatively correlated with brain responses in frontal, temporal and posterior midline regions, while callous-unemotional traits were positively correlated with right anterior insula responses. These results provide the first evidence in youth that sex influences the neural correlates of cToM, while age and callous-unemotional traits are specifically related to brain responses during aToM.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16216
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalScientific Reports
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Cite this

Gao, Y., Rogers, J. C., Pauli, R., Clanton, R., Baker, R., Birch, P., Ferreira, L., Brown, A., Freitag, C. M., Fairchild, G., Rotshtein, P., & De Brito, S. A. (2019). Neural correlates of theory of mind in typically-developing youth: Influence of sex, age and callous-unemotional traits. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 1-12. [16216]. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-52261-y