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Journal Article

Seeing the unexpected: How brains read communicative intent through kinematics

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Trujillo,  James P.
International Max Planck Research School for Language Sciences, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Multimodal Language and Cognition, Radboud University Nijmegen, External Organizations;
Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, External Organizations;

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Ozyurek,  Asli
Multimodal Language and Cognition, Radboud University Nijmegen, External Organizations;
Research Associates, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Trujillo, J. P., Simanova, I., Ozyurek, A., & Bekkering, H. (2019). Seeing the unexpected: How brains read communicative intent through kinematics. Cerebral Cortex. Advance online publication. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhz148.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-C6FD-1
Abstract
Social interaction requires us to recognize subtle cues in behavior, such as kinematic differences in actions and gestures produced with different social intentions. Neuroscientific studies indicate that the putative mirror neuron system (pMNS) in the premotor cortex and mentalizing system (MS) in the medial prefrontal cortex support inferences about contextually unusual actions. However, little is known regarding the brain dynamics of these systems when viewing communicatively exaggerated kinematics. In an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment, 28 participants viewed stick-light videos of pantomime gestures, recorded in a previous study, which contained varying degrees of communicative exaggeration. Participants made either social or nonsocial classifications of the videos. Using participant responses and pantomime kinematics, we modeled the probability of each video being classified as communicative. Interregion connectivity and activity were modulated by kinematic exaggeration, depending on the task. In the Social Task, communicativeness of the gesture increased activation of several pMNS and MS regions and modulated top-down coupling from the MS to the pMNS, but engagement of the pMNS and MS was not found in the nonsocial task. Our results suggest that expectation violations can be a key cue for inferring communicative intention, extending previous findings from wholly unexpected actions to more subtle social signaling.