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Effect of subjective perspective taking during simulation of action: a PET investigation of agency

Abstract

Perspective taking is an essential component in the mechanisms that account for intersubjectivity and agency. Mental simulation of action can be used as a natural protocol to explore the cognitive and neural processing involved in agency. Here we took PET measurements while subjects simulated actions with either a first-person or a third-person perspective. Both conditions were associated with common activation in the SMA, the precentral gyrus, the precuneus and the MT/V5 complex. When compared to the first-person perspective, the third-person perspective recruited right inferior parietal, precuneus, posterior cingulate and frontopolar cortex. The opposite contrast revealed activation in left inferior parietal and somatosensory cortex. We suggest that the right inferior parietal, precuneus and somatosensory cortex are specifically involved in distinguishing self-produced actions from those generated by others.

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Figure 1: Brain areas activated by first-person simulation.
Figure 2: Brain areas activated by third-person simulation.
Figure 3: Brain areas activated by third- versus first-person simulation.
Figure 4: Activation profiles for clusters in the right inferior parietal and precuneus across activation conditions.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the Cognitique Programme from the French Ministry of Education. We thank A. Goldman (University of Arizona, Tucson) and A. Meltzoff (University of Washington, Seattle) for their comments during the preparation of the manuscript. D. Cardebat (Inserm unit 455, Toulouse, France) gave us advice on the experimental protocol.

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Correspondence to Jean Decety.

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Ruby, P., Decety, J. Effect of subjective perspective taking during simulation of action: a PET investigation of agency. Nat Neurosci 4, 546–550 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1038/87510

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