Theory of Mind
How we understand emotions felt by other people is a central but still unresolved question in cognitive-affective neuroscience. Many studies used brain imaging techniques to explore the neural foundations of this ability, and suggested that they might partly rely on brain structures involved in ‘theory of mind’ (ToM), i.e. cognitive processes mediating the representations of others’ mental states, like beliefs or goals. These observations are in favor of a mentalistic (or representational) interpretation of affect attribution, according to which emotions of other people are not represented exclusively in terms on their bodily manifestations (smiles, tears, shivers, etc.) but also as particular states of mind. This project aims at investigating the degree of similarity between the neural representation of affective and cognitive states in the brain, in order to estabilish whether, and to which extent, undersating emotions relies on the same mechanism underlying the inference of other mental states. Furthermore, by employing the same paradigms also on clinical population with brain damage, we could identify neural correlates of lesion-induced deficits in ToM, and estabilish whether troubles in n appraising both emotions and cognitive states underlie the same or different brain networks.