Authors: Dennis M, Simic N, Bigler ED, Abildskov T, Agostino A, Taylor HG, Rubin K, Vannatta K, Gerhardt CA, Stancin T, Yeates KO.
We studied three forms of dyadic communication involving theory of mind (ToM) in 82 children with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and 61 children with orthopedic injury (OI): Cognitive (concerned with false belief), Affective (concerned with expressing socially deceptive facial expressions), and Conative (concerned with influencing another's thoughts or feelings). We analyzed the pattern of brain lesions in the TBI group and conducted voxel-based morphometry for all participants in five large-scale functional brain networks, and related lesion and volumetric data to ToM outcomes. Children with TBI exhibited difficulty with Cognitive, Affective, and Conative ToM. The perturbation threshold for Cognitive ToM is higher than that for Affective and Conative ToM, in that Severe TBI disturbs Cognitive ToM but even Mild-Moderate TBI disrupt Affective and Conative ToM. Childhood TBI was associated with damage to all five large-scale brain networks. Lesions in the Mirror Neuron Empathy network predicted lower Conative ToM involving ironic criticism and empathic praise. Conative ToM was significantly and positively related to the package of Default Mode, Central Executive, and Mirror Neuron Empathy networks and, more specifically, to two hubs of the Default Mode Network, the posterior cingulate/retrosplenial cortex and the hippocampal formation, including entorhinal cortex and parahippocampal cortex.