Gamma electroencephalographic coherence and theory of mind in healthy subjects

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose: Structural brain imaging has revealed that damage to different brain regions may impair theory of mind (ToM) while functional imaging has shown that distributed neural circuits are activated by ToM and empathy. However, the coherence of the electroencephalogram (EEG) frequencies in a definite time span may change during these processes, indicating different neurophysiological correlates. This study evaluated the changes of EEG coherence during ToM tasks in comparison with Empathy, Physical causality, and baseline conditions, aiming to determine the neurophysiological correlates of ToM. Methods: Sixteen healthy adults underwent a visual activation paradigm using 30 comic strips concerning ToM, Empathy, or Physical causality during EEG recording. The interhemispheric coherence was estimated using a bivariate autoregressive (AR) parametric model. The coherence spectra were analyzed in the alpha, beta, and gamma frequency EEG bands. Results: Coherence analysis taking all of the responses showed that in the gamma band, in comparison with the Empathy, Physical causality, and baseline conditions, ToM was associated with significantly higher peaks between the frontal and parietal areas in the right hemisphere and, in comparison with the Physical causality and baseline conditions, in the left hemisphere. Analysis taking the correct responses confirmed these results. Conclusions: In healthy adults, ToM processes are associated with immediate specific changes of brain connectivity, as expressed by high cortical coherence within the right frontal and parietal areas. These previously unexplored aspects indicate an online involvement of the right hemisphere networks in normal ToM. In patients with epilepsy, the study of EEG coherence during specific tasks may help determine the neural dysfunctions associated with impaired ToM. This article is part of the Special Issue “Epilepsy and social cognition across the lifespan”.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106435
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • Brain connectivity
  • Coherence
  • Electroencephalogram
  • Empathy
  • Theory of mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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