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Brain Struct Funct. 2011 Jun;216(2):151-7. doi: 10.1007/s00429-010-0298-1. Epub 2011 Jan 7.

Different brain structures related to self- and external-agency attribution: a brief review and meta-analysis.

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Centre Emotion, CNRS 3246, Pavillon Clérambault, Hôpital de la Salpêtrière, 47 Bd de l'Hôpital, 75651 Paris, Cedex 13, France.


Several neuroimaging studies have consistently shown activations of areas surrounding the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) during tasks exploring the sense of agency. Beyond TPJ, activations in different structures, such as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dLPFC), the pre-supplementary motor area (pre-SMA), the insula and the precuneus have been reported. Moreover, a possible dissociation between self- and external-agency attribution has been suggested. To test the hypothesis of distinct neural correlates for self- and external-agency attribution a quantitative meta-analysis, based on activation likelihood estimation (ALE) method, across 15 PET and fMRI studies (228 subjects) was conducted. Results show converging activations including the TPJ, pre-SMA, precuneus and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dMPFC) in external-agency, while insula activation was related to self-agency. We discuss these findings, highlighting the role of the insula, and calling for the use of alternative paradigms such as intentional binding and interactive imitation to study agency.

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