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  fMRI item-analyses and large-scale retest-reliability of empathy and theory of mind

Kanske, P. (2016). fMRI item-analyses and large-scale retest-reliability of empathy and theory of mind. Talk presented at 50th Congress of the German Society for Psychology (DGPs). Leipzig, Germany. 2016-09-18 - 2016-09-22.

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Kanske, Philipp1, Author              
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1Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society, ou_634552              

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 Abstract: Successful social interactions require both sharing other’s affect (empathy) and reasoning about their mental states (Theory of Mind, ToM). Here, we ask how these psychological constructs can be operationalized to investigate their neural underpinnings in a reliable and valid way. To this end, we applied a novel fMRI paradigm (EmpaToM) that independently manipulates empathy and ToM by presenting emotional versus neutral videos and subsequently asking ToM versus factual reasoning questions about the narrations in the videos. First, we demonstrate that the behavioral measures in this task correlate with established tasks of empathy and ToM. Second, we show overlap of the observed neural networks including anterior insula and anterior cingulate/medial prefrontal cortex for empathy and ventral temporoparietal junction, temporal poles, anterior and posterior midline regions for ToM with meta-analyses and established fMRI tasks tested in the same participants. Third, we report specific correlations of the behavioral measures with activity in the respective neural networks. Forth, data from four measurement time-points (~3 months apart) demonstrate the retest-reliability of the behavioral and neural markers. Fifth, the neural networks can be replicated in item-analyses showing the generalizability of the results to the respective stimulus classes. Finally, regression analyses ruled out the possibility that stimulus characteristics other than the experimental category are predictive of the neural activity (e.g. video length, number of words, syntactic complexity). In sum, data strongly support the reliability and validity of the provided behavioral and neural markers of empathy and ToM, opening the possibility to apply the EmpaToM in future basic neuroscience, clinical and intervention studies of social cognition.

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 Dates: 2016-09
 Publication Status: Not specified
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Title: 50th Congress of the German Society for Psychology (DGPs)
Place of Event: Leipzig, Germany
Start-/End Date: 2016-09-18 - 2016-09-22

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