"You talkin' to me"? Understanding communicative intentions recruits the mirror and the mentalizing system

Abstract

In our daily social interactions we can infer others people intentions from the observation of their actions. In general, two brain systems, the mentalizing and the mirror neuron system, have been implicated in understanding other’s intentions. However, there is little knowledge whether and how these two systems may cooperate in correctly understanding communicative interactions. We used functional MRI to establish how mirror and mentalizing regions contribute to the implicit encoding of communicative intentions, proposing that being directly involved during social interaction would be mediated by both systems. In particular, we investigated the involvement of those systems in distinguishing communicative from private intentions as well as other directed (“third-person perspective”) from self-directed (“second-person perspective”) intentions. Categorical and functional connectivity analyses showed that the mentalizing and the mirror neurons system were simultaneously involved in processing communicative intentions in general and more strongly coupled in self directed communicative actions.


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