Rebecca Saxe is an associate professor of cognitive neuroscience in the department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. She is also an associate member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research. She is known for her research on the neural basis of social cognition.
As a graduate student, Saxe demonstrated that a brain region known as the right temporoparietal junction (rTPJ) is specifically activated by ‘theory of mind’ tasks that require understanding the mental states of other people. She continues to study this brain region, and has recently demonstrated that rTPJ is involved in moral judgments; in a task where subjects hear stories and evaluate the permissibility of the characters’ behavior, disruption of the rTPJ causes subjects to place less weight on the character’s intentions, and greater weight on the actual outcomes of their actions. Individuals with autism show a similar pattern of responses, suggesting a possible role for rTPJ in the etiology of autism.
Awards and recognition
Before joining the MIT faculty, Saxe was a junior fellow of Harvard University’s Society of Fellows. In 2008 she was named one of Popular Science Magazine’s “Brilliant 10” scientists under 40, and in 2012 the World Economic Forum named her a Young Global Leader. Her 2009 TED talk has been viewed over 1 million times.
- Saxe, R.; Kanwisher, N. (2003). "People thinking about thinking people. The role of the temporo-parietal junction in "theory of mind"". NeuroImage 19 (4): 1835–1842. doi:10.1016/S1053-8119(03)00230-1. PMID 12948738.
- Young, L.; Camprodon, J. A.; Hauser, M.; Pascual-Leone, A.; Saxe, R. (2010). "Disruption of the right temporoparietal junction with transcranial magnetic stimulation reduces the role of beliefs in moral judgments". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107 (15): 6753–6758. doi:10.1073/pnas.0914826107. PMC 2872442. PMID 20351278.
- Moran, J. M.; Young, L. L.; Saxe, R.; Lee, S. M.; O'Young, D.; Mavros, P. L.; Gabrieli, J. D. (2011). "Impaired theory of mind for moral judgment in high-functioning autism". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108 (7): 2688–2692. doi:10.1073/pnas.1011734108. PMC 3041087. PMID 21282628.
- Bedny, M.; Pascual-Leone, A.; Dodell-Feder, D.; Fedorenko, E.; Saxe, R. (2011). "Language processing in the occipital cortex of congenitally blind adults". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108 (11): 4429–4434. doi:10.1073/pnas.1014818108. PMC 3060248. PMID 21368161.
- Bruneau, E. G.; Pluta, A.; Saxe, R. (2012). "Distinct roles of the 'Shared Pain' and 'Theory of Mind' networks in processing others' emotional suffering". Neuropsychologia 50 (2): 219–231. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.11.008. PMID 22154962.
- Bruneau, E. G.; Dufour, N.; Saxe, R. (2012). "Social cognition in members of conflict groups: Behavioural and neural responses in Arabs, Israelis and South Americans to each other's misfortunes". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 367 (1589): 717–730. doi:10.1098/rstb.2011.0293. PMC 3260847. PMID 22271787.
- Saxe Lab
- Rebecca Saxe MIT faculty page
- Search PBS.org for Rebecca Saxe
- "How we read each other's minds" - talk at TEDGlobal 2009
- MIT press release for Young Global Leader award