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Schuwerk, Tobias; Schurz, Matthias; Müller, Fabian; Rupprecht, Rainer; Sommer, Monika (2017): The rTPJ's overarching cognitive function in networks for attention and theory of mind. In: Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Vol. 12, No. 1: pp. 157-168
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Abstract

Cortical networks underpinning attentional control and mentalizing converge at the right temporoparietal junction (rTPJ). It is debated whether the rTPJ is fractionated in neighboring, but separate functional modules underpinning attentional control and mentalizing, or whether one overarching cognitive mechanism explains the rTPJ's role in both domains. Addressing this question, we combined attentional control and mentalizing in a factorial design within one task. We added a social context condition, in which another individual's mental states became apparently task-relevant, to a spatial cueing paradigm. This allowed for assessing cue validity-and context-dependent functional activity and effective connectivity of the rTPJ within corresponding cortical networks. We found two discriminable rTPJ subregions, an anterior and a posterior one. Yet, we did not observe a sharp functional dissociation between these two, as both regions responded to attention cueing and social context manipulation. The results suggest that the rTPJ is part of both the ventral attention and the ToM network and that its function is defined by context-dependent coupling with the respective network. We argue that the rTPJ as a functional unit underpins an overarching cognitive mechanism in attentional control and mentalizing and discuss how the present results help to further specify this mechanism.