Exploring The Mechanics Of Judgment, Beliefs: Technique Images Brain Activity When We Think Of Others
This story is from the category The Brain
Date posted: 20/05/2008
The temporoparietal junction (TPJ) area of the brain is active when people think about other people's thoughts, MIT neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe has found, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
While it's impossible with fMRI to observe thoughts directly, it is possible to measure which brain regions are active while people are thinking about certain things.
Using fMRI, she has identified an area of the brain (the temporoparietal junction) that lights up when people think about other people's thoughts, something we do often as we try to figure out why others behave as they do.
That finding is "one of the most astonishing discoveries in the field of human cognitive neuroscience," says Nancy Kanwisher, the Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT and Saxe's PhD thesis adviser.
"We already knew that some parts of the brain are involved in specific aspects of perception and motor control, but many doubted that an abstract high-level cognitive process like understanding another person's thoughts would be conducted in its own private patch of cortex," Kanwisher says.
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