Dissociable prefrontal networks for cognitive and affective theory of mind: A lesion study

Simone G. Shamay-Tsoory, Judith Aharon-Peretz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The underlying mechanisms and neuroanatomical correlates of theory of mind (ToM), the ability to make inferences on others' mental states, remain largely unknown. While numerous studies have implicated the ventromedial (VM) frontal lobes in ToM, recent findings have questioned the role of the prefrontal cortex. We designed two novel tasks that examined the hypothesis that affective ToM processing is distinct from that related to cognitive ToM and depends in part on separate anatomical substrates. The performance of patients with localized lesions in the VM was compared to responses of patients with dorsolateral lesions, mixed prefrontal lesions, and posterior lesions and with healthy control subjects. While controls made fewer errors on affective as compared to cognitive ToM conditions in both tasks, patients with VM damage showed a different trend. Furthermore, while affective ToM was mostly impaired by VM damage, cognitive ToM was mostly impaired by extensive prefrontal damage, suggesting that cognitive and affective mentalizing abilities are partly dissociable. By introducing the concept of 'affective ToM' to the study of social cognition, these results offer new insights into the mediating role of the VM in the affective facets of social behavior that may underlie the behavioral disturbances observed in these patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3054-3067
Number of pages14
Issue number13
StatePublished - 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF). The authors are grateful for the help of Dr. Rachel Tomer and Yasmin Tibi.


  • Affective processing
  • Theory of mind
  • Ventromedial prefrontal cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Dissociable prefrontal networks for cognitive and affective theory of mind: A lesion study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this