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While the human medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) is widely believed to be a key node of neural networks relevant for socio-emotional processing, its functional subspecialization is still poorly understood. We thus revisited the often assumed differentiation of the mPFC in social cognition along its ventral-dorsal axis. Our neuroinformatic analysis was based on a neuroimaging meta-analysis of perspective-taking that yielded two separate clusters in the ventral and dorsal mPFC, respectively. We determined each seed region's brain-wide interaction pattern by two complementary measures of functional connectivity: co-activation across a wide range of neuroimaging studies archived in the BrainMap database and correlated signal fluctuations during unconstrained (“resting”) cognition. Furthermore, we characterized the functions associated with these two regions using the BrainMap database. Across methods, the ventral mPFC was more strongly connected with the nucleus accumbens, hippocampus, posterior cingulate cortex, and retrosplenial cortex, while the dorsal mPFC was more strongly connected with the inferior frontal gyrus, temporo-parietal junction, and middle temporal gyrus. Further, the ventral mPFC was selectively associated with reward related tasks, while the dorsal mPFC was selectively associated with perspective-taking and episodic memory retrieval. The ventral mPFC is therefore predominantly involved in bottom-up-driven, approach/avoidance-modulating, and evaluation-related processing, whereas the dorsal mPFC is predominantly involved in top–down-driven, probabilistic-scene-informed, and metacognition-related processing in social cognition.
Bzdok D, Langner R, Schilbach L, Engemann DA, Laird AR, Fox PT and Eickhoff SB (2013) Segregation of the human medial prefrontal cortex in social cognition. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:232. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00232