Intention understanding over T: a neuroimaging study on shared representations and tennis return predictions


Studying the way athletes predict actions of their peers during fast-ball sports, such as a tennis, has proved to be a valuable tool for increasing our knowledge of intention understanding. The working model in this area is that the anticipatory representations of others' behaviors require internal predictive models of actions formed from pre-established and shared representations between the observer and the actor. This model also predicts that observers would not be able to read accurately the intentions of a competitor if the competitor were to perform the action without prior knowledge of their intention until moments before the action. To test this hypothesis, we recorded brain activity from 25 male tennis players while they performed a novel behavioral tennis intention inference task, which included two conditions: (i) one condition in which they viewed video clips of a tennis athlete who knew in advance where he was about to act/serve (initially intended serves) and (ii) one condition in which they viewed video clips of that same athlete when he did not know where he was to act/serve until the target was specified after he had tossed the ball into the air to complete his serve (non-initially intended serves). Our results demonstrated that (i) tennis expertise is related to the accuracy in predicting where another server intends to serve when that server knows where he intends to serve before(but not after) he tosses the ball in the air; and (ii) accurate predictions are characterized by the recruitment of both cortical areas within the human mirror neuron system (that is known to be involved in higher-order (top-down) processes of embodied cognition and shared representation) and subcortical areas within brain regions involved in procedural memory (caudate nucleus). Interestingly, inaccurate predictions instead recruit areas known to be involved in low-level (bottom-up) computational processes associated with the sense of agency and self-other distinction.

Keywords: embodied cognition, biosocial interaction, dyads, intention understanding, shared representation, fMRI, social neuroscience, mirror neuron system

Autor / Fonte:Stephanie Cacioppo, Frederic Fontang, Nisa Patel, Jean Decety, George Monteleone, John T Cacioppo Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 2014, 8: 781