About this Research Topic
Motor resonance is considered to be the automatic, inner replica of a perceived or imagined action and it is directly gauged by recording motor evoked potentials in response to transcranial magnetic stimulation of the primary motor cortex, or indirectly assessed by considering the influence that the action has on its execution or evaluation (e.g., facilitated mimicry of corresponding actions, but motor interference during the simultaneous observation and execution of incompatible actions). Many experiments have shown that motor resonance occurs in a muscle-specific fashion according to somatotopic rules, and that it is automatic, and time-locked to the movement phases. Consequently, it is commonly considered to reflect a fine-grained encoding of action kinematic aspects. Embodied theories of cognition claim that this motor replica supports action perception and conception, since this automatically induced, sensorimotor representation of the perceived or imagined action corresponds to what is spontaneously generated during action execution and whose outcome is known to the agent.
However, even if a butcher knows exactly how to use a knife to slaughter a cow he probably does not know what it really means to use the same knife to infer a fatal stab to a person: motivations and consequences are totally different. As well, watching someone devouring a greasy hamburger can arouse envy or disgust depending on the level of satiety of the observer or on his diet. And again, looking at a tablemate who is pouring wine in order to communicate gratitude or to check for any stain on the tablecloth makes the action to have a completely different meaning for the observer. Therefore, if mapping others’ actions onto one’s own sensorimotor representation cues the goal and, possibly, the ultimate intention of the agent, motor resonance must necessarily encode also aspects not simply related to the kinematics of the movement.
While initial data support the hypothesis that motor resonance can be modulated by the observer's values, needs, and attitudes, it remains currently unclear however, which cognitive processes and neural mechanisms are involved in exerting this top down modulation of motor resonance. In particular, the circumstances that make motor resonance to be a mere fine-grained motor replica of the perceived action kinematics or to embed observer's intended goal, moral rules, beliefs, disposition and emotions need to be explored. The aim of this Research Topic is to prompt the investigation of the still almost unexplored question of how agent’s and observer’s motivational states influence motor resonance.
We encourage submissions that apply various methods (e.g., behavioural, neuropsychological, neurophysiological, neuroimaging, computational, brain stimulation) allowing a direct or indirect assessment of motor resonance, defined as the involvement of motor system during the perception of actions, whatever sensory modality, or during the activation of action concepts (i.e., reading, speech listening, or imagination). We aim to boost research on this topic at both theoretical and empirical levels; thus, we welcome contributions as Original Research Article, (Mini/Focused/Systematic) Review and Hypothesis and Theory.
[Image by Claudio Gualandi]
Keywords: Action observation, Imagery, Motivational state, Motor resonance, Top-down modulation
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