Mind Reading

Rebecca Saxe studies human social cognition, using a combination of behavioral testing and brain imaging technologies. She is best known for her work on brain regions specialized for abstract concepts such as “theory of mind” tasks that involve understanding the mental states of other people. While it was previously known that humans and animals have brain regions that are specialized for basic functions such as visual recognition and motor control, this was the first example of a brain region specialized for constructing abstract thoughts. Saxe continues to study this region and has found that it is involved when we make moral judgements about other people. She is also exploring its possible role in autism, where the ability to understand other people’s beliefs and motivations is often impaired. A major area of her work involves looking at how and when these specialized brain regions form children.