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Brain Cogn. 2013 Mar;81(2):176-82. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2012.11.001. Epub 2012 Dec 20.

Corticospinal excitability during the observation of social behavior.

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  • 1Dipartimento di Psicologia Generale, Università di Padova, Via Venezia 8, 35131 Padova, Italy. giulia.bucchioni@gmail.com


Evidence suggests that the observation of an action induces in the observers an enhancement of motor evoked potentials (MEPs) recorded by the observer's muscles corresponding to those involved in the observed action. Although this is a well-studied phenomenon, it remains still unclear how the viewer's motor facilitation is influenced by the social content characterizing the observed scene. In the present study we investigated the facilitation of the corticospinal system during the observation of either an action that does not imply a social interaction (i.e., an actor throwing a ball against a wall), or an action which implies a social interaction (i.e., an actor passing a ball to a partner). Results indicate that MEPs amplitude is enhanced during the observation of a social rather than an individual action. We contend that the increase in MEPs activation might reflect an enhancement of the simulative activity stemming from the mirror system during the observation of social interactions. Altogether these findings show that the human corticospinal system is sensitive to social interactions and may support the role of the mirror neurons system in social cognition.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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