A Meta-Analysis of Functional Neuroimaging Studies of Self and Other Judgments Reveals a Spatial Gradient for Mentalizing in Medial Prefrontal Cortex
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AbstractThe distinction between processes used to perceive and understand the self and others has received considerable attention in psychology and neuroscience. Brain findings highlight a role for various regions, in particular the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), in supporting judgments about both the self and others. We performed a meta-analysis of 107 neuroimaging studies of self- and other-related judgments using Multilevel Kernel Density Analysis (MKDA; Kober & Wager, 2010). We sought to determine what brain regions are reliably involved in each judgment type, and in particular, what the spatial and functional organization of mPFC is with respect to them. Relative to non-mentalizing judgments, both self and other judgments were associated with activity in mPFC, ranging from ventral to dorsal extents, as well as common activation of the left temporoparietal junction (TPJ) and posterior cingulate. A direct comparison between self and other judgments revealed that ventral mPFC (vmPFC), as well as left ventrolateral PFC and left insula, were more frequently activated by self-related judgments, whereas dorsal mPFC (dmPFC), in addition to bilateral TPJ and cuneus, were more frequently activated by other-related judgments. Logistic regression analyses revealed that ventral and dorsal mPFC lay at opposite ends of a functional gradient: the z-coordinates reported in individual studies predicted whether the study involved self- or other-related judgments, which were associated with increasingly ventral or dorsal portions of mPFC, respectively. These results argue for a distributed rather than localizationist account of mPFC organization and support an emerging view on the functional heterogeneity of mPFC.