March 8, 2021

Social prediction modulates activity of macaque superior temporal cortex

The ability to attribute thoughts to others, also called theory of mind (TOM), has been extensively studied. Computationally, the basis of TOM in humans has been interpreted within the predictive coding framework and associated with activity in the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ). However, the evolutionary origins of these human mindreading abilities have been challenged since the concept was coined. Here we identify a brain region in the Rhesus macaque that shares computational properties with the human TPJ. We revealed, using a non-linguistic task and functional magnetic resonance imaging, that activity in a region of the macaque middle superior temporal cortex was specifically modulated by the predictability of social interactions. As in human TPJ, this region could be distinguished from other temporal regions involved in face processing. Our result suggests the existence of a precursor for the theory of mind ability in the last common ancestor of human and old-world monkeys.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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