Rebecca Saxe, MIT, Highlights SBE-Funded Research on Capitol Hill

May 29, 2013

by Chris Cameron

The 19th Annual Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) Exhibition and Reception was held on Capitol Hill on May 7, 2013. The event showcases science, mathematics, engineering and education research supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Investments in STEM Research and Education: Fueling American Innovation provided a forum for Members of Congress, Congressional staff, researchers, educators, and students to converse about the importance of NSF-funded research to our nation's goals. 

FABBS invited Rebecca Saxe, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to present her work on the "Development of Brain Regions for Theory of Mind." Theory of Mind refers to an individual's ability to think about other people's thinking and use that information to predict, explain, or judge their behavior. It affects such uniquely human experiences as flirting, deceiving, comedy, and law. Theory of Mind can also be used to understand social conflict and disorders such as autism and social anxiety. 

Saxe and her colleagues study brain regions specifically related to thinking about other people’s thoughts, including how these regions develop in children and continue to function in adults. Saxe's current NSF funding supports her research on how Theory of Mind develops in blind children, who have to learn about people's minds without seeing their faces or eyes; and in deaf children of non-signing parents, who miss early access to conversations about minds. 

View Dr. Saxe's poster » [PDF]

Watch Dr. Saxe’s TED talk »