Common brain mechanisms underlying the control of imitative behaviour and mental state attribution: a transcranial brain stimulation study

01 January 2013 → 31 December 2014
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Social sciences
    • Social psychology
transcranial brain stimulation
Project description

The observation of an action is associated with the activation of the corresponding

motor representation in the observer. This motor mirroring may allow us to infer

underlying goals and intentions of others on the basis of what our own goals and

intentions would be for the same action. Representing actions of the self and others

in common may usually lead to an automatic tendency to imitate the observed (i.e.,

the chameleon effect). Action observation interferes with one’s own actions when

these are different from those being observed. How do we distinguish the motor

program activated by our intention from that triggered by observation? How are we

able to enforce our intention against imitation tendencies? Recent studies have

suggested that the control of automatic imitative response tendencies involves brain

areas that play an important role in higher-order abilities in social cognition, such as

the ability to reflect on other people’s mental states (i.e., Theory of Mind). The

present project aims to investigate whether and how these "social" brain areas

interact with the motor system in the control of imitative behaviour. Moreover, we will

explore the common role of these brain regions in the inhibition of imitative behavior

and in Theory of Mind.