Perspective-taking as part of narrative comprehension: A functional MRI study

Yoko Mano, Tokiko Harada, Motoaki Sugiura, Daisuke N. Saito, Norihiro Sadato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


During narrative comprehension, readers understand the emotions of the protagonist by taking the perspective of the character, which is an essential component of empathy. Spatial perspective-taking is crucial to understanding the standpoints and perceptions of others, and gives clues as to what the protagonist knows. As a default, a "here and now" point-of-view is adopted to make sense of the narrative. If the protagonist is in a different location while an event takes place ("there and now"), in order to comprehend the narrative the reader must take an allocentric perspective, which places greater demands on spatial perspective-taking. Utilizing this phenomenon, we evaluated the neural substrates of perspective-taking in emotional narrative comprehension using functional MRI in 18 normal adults. The subjects read short stories followed by a target sentence, which described an event that might evoke an emotional response in the protagonist if the character were present. The stories involved a scenario in which the character was either present at the same location ("here and now") or at a distant location ("there and now") during the event. The "there and now" scenario activated the posterior cingulate cortex and the right temporo-parietal junction more prominently than the "here and now" condition. In contrast to the control tasks, both scenarios activated the well-known mentalizing network including the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, temporal pole, posterior cingulate cortex and temporo-parietal junction. Along with the mentalizing network, the posterior cingulate cortex and the right temporo-parietal junction are involved in spatial perspective-taking during emotional narrative comprehension.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-824
Number of pages12
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Feb


  • Emotional comprehension
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
  • Perspective-taking
  • Posterior cingulate cortex (PCC)
  • Precuneus
  • Temporo-parietal-junction (TPJ)


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