Evidence of the role of the cerebellum in cognitive theory of mind using voxel-based lesion mapping

Pierre Aurélien Beuriat*, Shira Cohen-Zimerman, Gretchen N.L. Smith, Frank Krueger, Barry Gordon, Jordan Grafman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Theory of Mind (ToM) is a social-cognitive skill that allows the understanding of the intentions, beliefs, and desires of others. There is a distinction between affective and cognitive ToM, with evidence showing that these processes rely on partially distinct neural networks. The role of the cerebellum in social cognition has only been rarely explored. In this study, we tested whether the cerebellum is necessary for cognitive and affective ToM performance. We investigated adults with traumatic brain injury (n = 193) and healthy controls (n = 52) using voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping (VLSM) and by measuring the impact on functional connectivity. First, we observed that damage to the cerebellum affected pure Cognitive ToM processing. Further, we found a lateralization effect for the role of the cerebellum in cognitive ToM with participants with left cerebellar injury performing worse than those with right cerebellar injury. Both VLSM and standard statistical analysis provided evidence that left cerebellar Crus I and lobule VI contributed to ToM processing. Lastly, we found that disconnection of the left thalamic projection and the left fronto-striatal fasciculus was associated with poor cognitive ToM performance. Our study is the first to reveal direct causal neuropsychological evidence for a role of the cerebellum in some but not all types of ToM, processing. It reinforces the idea that social cognition relies on a complex network functionally connected through white matter pathways that include the cerebellum. It supports evidence that the neural networks underpinning the different types of ToM can be differentiated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4999
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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