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PLoS One. 2009 Aug 27;4(8):e6801. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006801.

Playing charades in the fMRI: are mirror and/or mentalizing areas involved in gestural communication?

Author information

1
BCN NeuroImaging Center, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands. m.b.schippers@med.umcg.nl

Abstract

Communication is an important aspect of human life, allowing us to powerfully coordinate our behaviour with that of others. Boiled down to its mere essentials, communication entails transferring a mental content from one brain to another. Spoken language obviously plays an important role in communication between human individuals. Manual gestures however often aid the semantic interpretation of the spoken message, and gestures may have played a central role in the earlier evolution of communication. Here we used the social game of charades to investigate the neural basis of gestural communication by having participants produce and interpret meaningful gestures while their brain activity was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging. While participants decoded observed gestures, the putative mirror neuron system (pMNS: premotor, parietal and posterior mid-temporal cortex), associated with motor simulation, and the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ), associated with mentalizing and agency attribution, were significantly recruited. Of these areas only the pMNS was recruited during the production of gestures. This suggests that gestural communication relies on a combination of simulation and, during decoding, mentalizing/agency attribution brain areas. Comparing the decoding of gestures with a condition in which participants viewed the same gestures with an instruction not to interpret the gestures showed that although parts of the pMNS responded more strongly during active decoding, most of the pMNS and the TPJ did not show such significant task effects. This suggests that the mere observation of gestures recruits most of the system involved in voluntary interpretation.

PMID:
19710923
PMCID:
PMC2728843
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0006801
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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