The role of medial prefrontal cortex in theory of mind: A deep rTMS study

Laura Krause, Peter G. Enticott, Abraham Zangen, Paul B. Fitzgerald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neuroimaging studies suggest that the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) plays a central role in cognitive theory of mind (ToM). This can be assessed more definitively, however, using repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). Sixteen healthy participants (10 females, 6 males) completed tasks assessing cognitive and affective ToM following low-frequency deep rTMS to bilateral mPFC in active-stimulation and placebo-stimulation sessions. There was no effect of deep rTMS on either cognitive or affective ToM performance. When examining self-reported empathy, however, there was evidence for a double dissociation: deep rTMS disrupted affective ToM performance for those with high self-reported empathy, but improved affective ToM performance for those with low self-reported empathy. mPFC appears to play a role in affective ToM processing, but the present study suggest that stimulation outcomes are dependent on baseline empathic abilities.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)87-90
Number of pages4
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2012


  • Empathy
  • Medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC)
  • Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)
  • Theory of mind (ToM)

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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