Date of this Version
Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:816.
Mentalizing, in particular the successful attribution of complex mental states to others, is crucial for navigating social interactions. This ability is highly influenced by external factors within one’s daily life, such as stress. We investigated the impact of stress on the brain basis of mentalization in adults. Using a novel modification of the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET-R) we compared the differential effects of two personalized stress induction procedures: a general stress induction (GSI) and an attachment-related stress induction (ASI). Participants performed the RMET-R at baseline and after each of the two inductions. Baseline results replicated and extended previous findings regarding the neural correlates of the RMET-R. Additionally, we identified brain regions associated with making complex age judgments from the same stimuli. Results after stress exposure showed that the ASI condition resulted in reduced mentalization-related activation in the left posterior superior temporal sulcus (STS), left inferior frontal gyrus and left temporoparietal junction (TPJ). Moreover, the left middle frontal gyrus and left anterior insula showed greater functional connectivity to the left posterior STS after the ASI. Our findings indicate that attachment-related stress has a unique effect on the neural correlates of mentalization.