Left inferior parietal lobe engagement in social cognition and language

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Social cognition and language are two core features of the human species. Despite distributed recruitment of brain regions in each mental capacity, the left parietal lobe (LPL) represents a zone of topographical convergence. The present study quantitatively summarizes hundreds of neuroimaging studies on social cognition and language. Using connectivity-based parcellation on a meta-analytically defined volume of interest (VOI), regional coactivation patterns within this VOI allowed identifying distinct subregions. Across parcellation solutions, two clusters emerged consistently in rostro-ventral and caudo-ventral aspects of the parietal VOI. Both clusters were functionally significantly associated with social-cognitive and language processing. In particular, the rostro-ventral cluster was associated with lower-level processing facets, while the caudo-ventral cluster was associated with higher-level processing facets in both mental capacities. Contrarily, in the (less stable) dorsal parietal VOI, all clusters reflected computation of general-purpose processes, such as working memory and matching tasks, that are frequently co-recruited by social or language processes. Our results hence favour a rostro-caudal distinction of lower- versus higher-level processes underlying social cognition and language in the left inferior parietal lobe.

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