Cerebral responses to self-initiated action during social interactions

Cognitive, affective & behavioral neuroscience(2019)

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Social interaction involves self-initiated actions that engage subjective awareness of one's own volition. Individuals with social communication needs or social anxiety find it particularly difficult to initiate social interactions. However, extant studies have not specifically addressed how perceived exclusion may influence self-initiated actions during social interaction. As a first step to address this question, we scanned 24 healthy adults participating in a Cyberball game with two fictive players. By contrasting events of observing, receiving, and initiating ball toss during a scenario of fair game (FG) and of exclusion (EX), we examined the neural correlates of self-initiated action during social interactions. Behaviorally, participants were faster in catching but slower in tossing the ball in EX compared with FG, suggesting a burden during self-initiated actions during social exclusion. Tossing versus receiving (or observing) engaged higher activity during EX than FG in the precuneus and angular gyrus, regions that have been widely implicated in theory of mind processing and social emotions. Across subjects these cortical activities correlated positively with the difference between EX and FG in the percentage of trials where participants tossed the ball back to the same player (r = 0.69, p < 0.001). Together, the results suggested that, in healthy adults, social exclusion encumbered and engaged higher posterior cortical activations during self-initiated actions. The findings may facilitate future research of neural markers of social behavioral disorders.
Social emotion,Social exclusion,Self-agency,Cyberball,Precuneus,Angular gyrus,Superior temporal cortex
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