Theory of Mind Ability after a Traumatic Brain Injury: Evidence for the Existence of Distinct Functional Components

Volume 15
Issue 2
Ilaria Cutica, Valeria Manera, Silvia Riva, Alessandra Ruzzini, Gabriella Pravettoni, & Marina Zettin
In literature, several developmental psychology and neuroimaging studies provide converging evidence for the assumption that theory of mind (ToM) has distinct functional and neural subcomponents, dependent on the content of the mentalizing activity, such as emotions, intentions and beliefs. Here we investigated through different ToM tasks whether traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients have different degree of impairment in their ability to make inferences about others’ intentions, emotions and false beliefs. Results showed a trend of increasing difficulty from intention items, to emotion items, to false belief items. These results help to clarify some inconsistencies found in previous studies exploring ToM in TBI patients, and point out to the importance of analyzing separately different ToM subcomponents.

Key words: Theory of Mind, traumatic brain injury, intention understanding, emotion understanding, false belief understanding