Acquired personality traits of autism following damage to the medial prefrontal cortex

Satoshi Umeda, Masaru Mimura, Motoichiro Kato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Recent neuroimaging studies on "theory of mind" have demonstrated that the medial prefrontal cortex (PFC) is involved when subjects are engaged in various kinds of mentalising tasks. Although a large number of neuroimaging studies have been published, a relatively small amount of neuropsychological evidence supports involvement of the medial PFC in theory of mind reasoning. We recruited two neurological cases with damage to the medial PFC and initially performed the standard neuropsychological assessments for intelligence, memory, and executive functions. To examine theory of mind performance in these two cases, four kinds of standard and advanced tests for theory of mind were used, including first- and second-order false belief tests, the strange stories test, and the faux pas recognition test. Both patients were also requested to complete the questionnaire for the autism-spectrum quotient. Neither case showed impairment on standard theory of mind tests and only mild impairments were seen on advanced theory of mind tests. This pattern of results is basically consistent with previous studies. The most interesting finding was that both cases showed personality changes after surgical operations, leading to characteristics of autism showing a lack of social interaction in everyday life. We discuss herein the possible roles of the medial PFC and emphasize the importance of using multiple approaches to understand the mechanisms of theory of mind and medial prefrontal functions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-29
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Neuroscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Feb


  • Anterior cingulate cortex
  • Autism-spectrum quotient
  • Medial prefrontal cortex
  • Mentalising
  • Theory of mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Development
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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