Neural Mechanisms of Theory of Mind in Autism and Schizophrenia: A Review of fMRI Studies



Theory of mind is a cognitive ability, which enables to understand intentions, emotions and beliefs of another person. Because of theory of mind, people are able to interpret behavior of others and adapt to it. Numerous psychiatric impairments are associated with damaged theory of mind and communication with others. The present review analyses the impairments of theory of mind as laying on a continuum from hypermentalization (over-attribution of intentions to others) to hypomentalization (under-attribution of intentions to others) in autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia. FMRI paradigm of different subprocesses of theory of mind is described (perceptual mind-reading, cognitive theory of mind, “hot” theory of mind and implicit theory of mind). Neural mechanisms of these subprocesses and their impairments in autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia analyzed.

General Information

Keywords: utism spectrum disorders; schizophrenia; fMRI; mentalization; Theory of Mind

Journal rubric: Theoretical Research

Article type: scientific article


Funding. this research is conducted and funded in accordance with Lomonosov Moscow State University state assignment, topic No. АААА-А19-119120690098-6

For citation: Iosifyan M.A., Mershina E.A., Bazhenova D.A., Sinitsyn V.E., Larina O.M., Pechenkova E.V. Neural Mechanisms of Theory of Mind in Autism and Schizophrenia: A Review of fMRI Studies [Elektronnyi resurs]. Klinicheskaia i spetsial'naia psikhologiia = Clinical Psychology and Special Education, 2020. Vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 17–46. DOI: 10.17759/cpse.2020090102. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

Marina A. Iosifyan, PhD in Psychology, Research Associate, Department of Neuro- and Pathopsychology, Faculty of Psychology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Elena A. Mershina, PhD in Medicine, Head of CT and MRI Unit at Radiology Department, Lomonosov Moscow State University Medical Research and Educational Center, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Daria A. Bazhenova, Radiologist, Radiology Department, Lomonosov Moscow State University Medical Research and Educational Center, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Valentin E. Sinitsyn, Doctor of Medicine, Professor, Head of Radiology Department, Lomonosov Moscow State University Medical Research and Educational Center, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Olga M. Larina, PhD in Medicine, Radiologist, Radiology Department, omonosov Moscow State University Medical Research and Educational Center, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Ekaterina V. Pechenkova, PhD in Psychology, Leading research fellow, Laboratory for Cognitive Research, Department of Psychology, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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