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Neural basis of understanding communicative actions: changes associated with knowing the actor’s intention and the meanings of the actions

Neural basis of understanding communicative actions: changes associated with knowing the actor’s intention and the meanings of the actions

Möttönen, Riikka, Farmer, Harry ORCID: 0000-0002-3684-0605 and Watkins, Kate E. (2016) Neural basis of understanding communicative actions: changes associated with knowing the actor’s intention and the meanings of the actions. Neuropsychologia, 81. pp. 230-237. ISSN 0028-3932 (doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2016.01.002)

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Abstract

People can communicate by using hand actions, e.g., signs. Understanding communicative actions requires that the observer knows that the actor has an intention to communicate and the meanings of the actions. Here, we investigated how this prior knowledge affects processing of observed actions. We used functional MRI to determine changes in action processing when non-signers were told that the observed actions are communicative (i.e., signs) and learned the meanings of half of the actions. Processing of hand actions activated the left and right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG, BA 44 and 45) when the communicative intention of the actor was known, even when the meanings of the actions remained unknown. These regions were not active when the observers did not know about the communicative nature of the hand actions. These findings suggest that the left and right IFG play a role in understanding the intention of the actor, but do not process visuospatial features of the communicative actions. Knowing the meanings of the hand actions further enhanced activity in the anterior part of the IFG (BA 45), the inferior parietal lobule and posterior inferior and middle temporal gyri in the left hemisphere. These left-hemisphere language regions could provide a link between meanings and observed actions. In sum, the findings provide evidence for the segregation of the networks involved in the neural processing of visuospatial features of communicative hand actions and those involved in understanding the actor’s intention and the meanings of the actions.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: action observation, mirror neuron system, mirror neurons, sign language, communication, inferior frontal cortex, inferior parietal lobule
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > Department of Psychology, Social Work & Counselling
Last Modified: 01 May 2020 09:19
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
Selected for GREAT 2019: None
Selected for REF2021: REF 2
URI: http://gala.gre.ac.uk/id/eprint/26818

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