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Are women better mindreaders? Sex differences in neural correlates of mentalizing detected with functional MRI.

Krach S, Blümel I, Marjoram D, Lataster T, Krabbendam L, Weber J, van Os J, Kircher T - BMC Neurosci (2009)

Bottom Line: Both the conditions of playing against putative human as well as computer partners led to activity increases in mPFC, ACC and rTPJ, constituting the classic ToM network.Differences in the medial frontal lobe activation related to the sex of the participants could be demonstrated for the human partner > computer partner contrast.Our data demonstrate differences in medial prefrontal brain activation during a ToM task depending on both the gender of participants and the game partner.

View Article: PubMed Central - HTML - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychiatry und Psychotherapy, Section of Neuroimaging, Philipps-University Marburg, Rudolf-Bultmann-Strasse 8, D-35039 Marburg, Germany. krachs@med.uni-marburg.de

ABSTRACT

Background: The ability to mentalize, i.e. develop a Theory of Mind (ToM), enables us to anticipate and build a model of the thoughts, emotions and intentions of others. It has long been hypothesised that women differ from men in their mentalizing abilities. In the present fMRI study we examined the impact of (1) gender (women vs. men) and (2) game partner (human vs. computer) on ToM associated neural activity in the medial prefrontal cortex. Groups of men (n = 12) and women (n = 12) interacted in an iterated classical prisoner's dilemma forced choice situation with alleged human and computer partners who were outside the scanner.

Results: Both the conditions of playing against putative human as well as computer partners led to activity increases in mPFC, ACC and rTPJ, constituting the classic ToM network. However, mPFC/ACC activity was more pronounced when participants believed they were playing against the alleged human partner. Differences in the medial frontal lobe activation related to the sex of the participants could be demonstrated for the human partner > computer partner contrast.

Conclusion: Our data demonstrate differences in medial prefrontal brain activation during a ToM task depending on both the gender of participants and the game partner.

Show MeSH
Male > female (human partner > computer partner) revealing only one ToM related brain region to be activated differentially between sexes: the medial prefrontal cortex (FWE p < .05, Monte Carlo corrected).
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Figure 4: Male > female (human partner > computer partner) revealing only one ToM related brain region to be activated differentially between sexes: the medial prefrontal cortex (FWE p < .05, Monte Carlo corrected).

Mentions: At the beginning of each series subjects were informed about the condition to be followed (human, computer or baseline) via the computer screen. Immediately after this instruction, a central cross on the computer screen indicated the start of a nine game series and enforced the subjects to make their decision (left or right button press; see above). The central cross disappeared after 1500 ms and was followed by an accumulated pay-off feedback for the current series (1000 ms) (see Fig. 4). The accumulated pay-off feedback enabled subjects to draw exact inferences about the response selection of the partner (i.e. human or computer). The subjects' pay-off was indicated by the lower number, the partners' pay-off by the upper number, respectively. During the low level baseline no numeral response feedback was given, instead two crosses replaced the numbers on the upper and lower side of the bar.


Are women better mindreaders? Sex differences in neural correlates of mentalizing detected with functional MRI.

Krach S, Blümel I, Marjoram D, Lataster T, Krabbendam L, Weber J, van Os J, Kircher T - BMC Neurosci (2009)

Male > female (human partner > computer partner) revealing only one ToM related brain region to be activated differentially between sexes: the medial prefrontal cortex (FWE p < .05, Monte Carlo corrected).
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC2667181&req=5

Figure 4: Male > female (human partner > computer partner) revealing only one ToM related brain region to be activated differentially between sexes: the medial prefrontal cortex (FWE p < .05, Monte Carlo corrected).
Mentions: At the beginning of each series subjects were informed about the condition to be followed (human, computer or baseline) via the computer screen. Immediately after this instruction, a central cross on the computer screen indicated the start of a nine game series and enforced the subjects to make their decision (left or right button press; see above). The central cross disappeared after 1500 ms and was followed by an accumulated pay-off feedback for the current series (1000 ms) (see Fig. 4). The accumulated pay-off feedback enabled subjects to draw exact inferences about the response selection of the partner (i.e. human or computer). The subjects' pay-off was indicated by the lower number, the partners' pay-off by the upper number, respectively. During the low level baseline no numeral response feedback was given, instead two crosses replaced the numbers on the upper and lower side of the bar.

Bottom Line: Both the conditions of playing against putative human as well as computer partners led to activity increases in mPFC, ACC and rTPJ, constituting the classic ToM network.Differences in the medial frontal lobe activation related to the sex of the participants could be demonstrated for the human partner > computer partner contrast.Our data demonstrate differences in medial prefrontal brain activation during a ToM task depending on both the gender of participants and the game partner.

View Article: PubMed Central - HTML - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychiatry und Psychotherapy, Section of Neuroimaging, Philipps-University Marburg, Rudolf-Bultmann-Strasse 8, D-35039 Marburg, Germany. krachs@med.uni-marburg.de

ABSTRACT

Background: The ability to mentalize, i.e. develop a Theory of Mind (ToM), enables us to anticipate and build a model of the thoughts, emotions and intentions of others. It has long been hypothesised that women differ from men in their mentalizing abilities. In the present fMRI study we examined the impact of (1) gender (women vs. men) and (2) game partner (human vs. computer) on ToM associated neural activity in the medial prefrontal cortex. Groups of men (n = 12) and women (n = 12) interacted in an iterated classical prisoner's dilemma forced choice situation with alleged human and computer partners who were outside the scanner.

Results: Both the conditions of playing against putative human as well as computer partners led to activity increases in mPFC, ACC and rTPJ, constituting the classic ToM network. However, mPFC/ACC activity was more pronounced when participants believed they were playing against the alleged human partner. Differences in the medial frontal lobe activation related to the sex of the participants could be demonstrated for the human partner > computer partner contrast.

Conclusion: Our data demonstrate differences in medial prefrontal brain activation during a ToM task depending on both the gender of participants and the game partner.

Show MeSH