Reading the mind in cartoons and stories: an fMRI study of 'theory of mind' in verbal and nonverbal tasks

H.L. Gallagher, F. Happé, N. Brunswick, P.C. Fletcher, U. Frith, C.D. Frith*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1121 Citations (Scopus)


Previous functional imaging studies have explored the brain regions activated by tasks requiring 'theory of mind'--the attribution of mental states. Tasks used have been primarily verbal, and it has been unclear to what extent different results have reflected different tasks, scanning techniques, or genuinely distinct regions of activation. Here we report results from a functional magnetic resonance imaging study (fMRI) involving two rather different tasks both designed to tap theory of mind. Brain activation during the theory of mind condition of a story task and a cartoon task showed considerable overlap, specifically in the medial prefrontal cortex (paracingulate cortex). These results are discussed in relation to the cognitive mechanisms underpinning our everyday ability to 'mind-read'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-21
Number of pages11
Issue number1
Early online date24 Nov 1999
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2000


  • adult
  • arousal/physiology
  • attention/physiology
  • brain mapping
  • cartoons as topic
  • cerebral cortex/physiology
  • concept formation/physiology
  • female
  • humans
  • image processing, computer-assisted
  • magnetic resonance Imaging
  • male
  • prefrontal cortex/physiology
  • problem solving/physiology
  • reading
  • reference values
  • social perception
  • theory of mind


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