An fMRI study of joint action-varying levels of cooperation correlates with activity in control networks

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  • Thierry Chaminade
  • ,
  • Jennifer L Marchant
  • ,
  • James Kilner
  • ,
  • Chris D Frith
As social agents, humans continually interact with the people around them. Here, motor cooperation was investigated using a paradigm in which pairs of participants, one being scanned with fMRI, jointly controlled a visually presented object with joystick movements. The object oscillated dynamically along two dimensions, color and width of gratings, corresponding to the two cardinal directions of joystick movements. While the overall control of each participant on the object was kept constant, the amount of cooperation along the two dimensions varied along four levels, from no (each participant controlled one dimension exclusively) to full (each participant controlled half of each dimension) cooperation. Increasing cooperation correlated with BOLD signal in the left parietal operculum and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), while decreasing cooperation correlated with activity in the right inferior frontal and superior temporal gyri, the intraparietal sulci and inferior temporal gyri bilaterally, and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex. As joint performance improved with the level of cooperation, we assessed the brain responses correlating with behavior, and found that activity in most of the areas associated with levels of cooperation also correlated with the joint performance. The only brain area found exclusively in the negative correlation with cooperation was in the dorso medial frontal cortex, involved in monitoring action outcome. Given the cluster location and condition-related signal change, we propose that this region monitored actions to extract the level of cooperation in order to optimize the joint response. Our results, therefore, indicate that, in the current experimental paradigm involving joint control of a visually presented object with joystick movements, the level of cooperation affected brain networks involved in action control, but not mentalizing.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Pages (from-to)179
Publication statusPublished - 2012

    Research areas

  • fMRI, motor control, human neuroscience, Joint action, mentalization

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