Brain systems for visual perspective taking and action perception

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Taking another person's viewpoint and making sense of their actions are key processes that guide social behavior. Previous neuroimaging investigations have largely studied these processes separately. The current study used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine how the brain incorporates another person's viewpoint and actions into visual perspective judgments. Participants made a left–right judgment about the location of a target object from their own (egocentric) or an actor's visual perspective (altercentric). Actor location varied around a table and the actor was either reaching or not reaching for the target object. Analyses examined brain regions engaged in the egocentric and altercentric tasks, brain regions where response magnitude tracked the orientation of the actor in the scene and brain regions sensitive to the action performed by the actor. The blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) response in dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC) was sensitive to actor orientation in the altercentric task, whereas the response in right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) was sensitive to actor orientation in the egocentric task. Thus, dmPFC and right IFG may play distinct but complementary roles in visual perspective taking (VPT). Observation of a reaching actor compared to a non-reaching actor yielded activation in lateral occipitotemporal cortex, regardless of task, showing that these regions are sensitive to body posture independent of social context. By considering how an observed actor's location and action influence the neural bases of visual perspective judgments, the current study supports the view that multiple neurocognitive “routes” operate during VPT.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-267
JournalSocial Neuroscience
Issue number3
Early online date25 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013
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