Functional lateralization of temporoparietal junction - imitation inhibition, visual perspective-taking and theory of mind.
Santiesteban I., Banissy MJ., Catmur C., Bird G.
Although neuroimaging studies have consistently identified the temporoparietal junction (TPJ) as a key brain region involved in social cognition, the literature is far from consistent with respect to lateralization of function. For example, during theory-of-mind tasks bilateral TPJ activation is found in some studies but only right hemisphere activation in others. Visual perspective-taking and imitation inhibition, which have been argued to recruit the same socio-cognitive processes as theory of mind, are associated with unilateral activation of either left TPJ (perspective taking) or right TPJ (imitation inhibition). The present study investigated the functional lateralization of TPJ involvement in the above three socio-cognitive abilities using transcranial direct current stimulation. Three groups of healthy adults received anodal stimulation over right TPJ, left TPJ or the occipital cortex prior to performing three tasks (imitation inhibition, visual perspective-taking and theory of mind). In contrast to the extant neuroimaging literature, our results suggest bilateral TPJ involvement in imitation inhibition and visual perspective-taking, while no effect of anodal stimulation was observed on theory of mind. The discrepancy between these findings and those obtained using neuroimaging highlight the efficacy of neurostimulation as a complementary methodological tool in cognitive neuroscience.