In a traditional view, in social cognition, attention is equated with gaze and people track attention by tracking other people’s gaze. Here we used fMRI to test whether the brain represents attention in a richer manner. People read stories describing an agent (either oneself or someone else) directing attention to an object in one of two ways: either internally directed (endogenous) or externally induced (exogenous). We used multivoxel pattern analysis to examine how brain areas within the theory-of-mind network encoded attention type and agent type. Brain activity patterns in the left temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) showed significant decoding of information about endogenous versus exogenous attention. The left TPJ, left superior temporal sulcus (STS), precuneus, and medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) significantly decoded agent type (self versus other). These findings show that the brain constructs a rich model of one’s own and others’ attentional state, possibly aiding theory of mind.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience