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Behav Brain Res. 2003 Jun 16;142(1-2):1-15.

The mechanism of self-recognition in humans.

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  • Institut des Sciences Cognitives, 67 Bd Pinel, 69675 Bron, France. jeannerod@isc.cnrs.fr


Recognizing oneself as the owner of a body and the agent of actions requires specific mechanisms which have been elucidated only recently. One of these mechanisms is the monitoring of signals arising from bodily movements, i.e. the central signals which contribute to the generation of the movements and the sensory signals which arise from their execution. The congruence between these two sets of signals is a strong index for determining the experiences of ownership and agency, which are the main constituents of the experience of being an independent self. This mechanism, however, does not account from the frequent cases where an intention is generated but the corresponding action is not executed. In this paper, it is postulated that such covert actions are internally simulated by activating specific cortical networks or representations of the intended actions. This process of action simulation is also extended to the observation and the recognition of actions performed or intended by other agents. The problem of disentangling representations that pertain to self-intended actions from those that pertain to actions executed or intended by others, is a critical one for attributing actions to their respective agents. Failure to recognize one's own actions and misattribution of actions may result from pathological conditions which alter the readability of these representations.

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