Localizing Pain Matrix and Theory of Mind networks with both verbal and non-verbal stimuli

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Abstract

Functional localizer tasks allow researchers to identify brain regions in each individual's brain, using a combination of anatomical and functional constraints. In this study, we compare three social cognitive localizer tasks, designed to efficiently identify regions in the “Pain Matrix,” recruited in response to a person's physical pain, and the “Theory of Mind network,” recruited in response to a person's mental states (i.e. beliefs and emotions). Participants performed three tasks: first, the verbal false-belief stories task; second, a verbal task including stories describing physical pain versus emotional suffering; and third, passively viewing a non-verbal animated movie, which included segments depicting physical pain and beliefs and emotions. All three localizers were efficient in identifying replicable, stable networks in individual subjects. The consistency across tasks makes all three tasks viable localizers. Nevertheless, there were small reliable differences in the location of the regions and the pattern of activity within regions, hinting at more specific representations. The new localizers go beyond those currently available: first, they simultaneously identify two functional networks with no additional scan time, and second, the non-verbal task extends the populations in whom functional localizers can be applied. These localizers will be made publicly available.

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