IPL-M1 interaction shapes pre-reflective social differentiation in the human action system: new insights from TBS and TMS combined

Sci Rep. 2018 Aug 10;8(1):12001. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-30480-z.


The conscious experience of being the author of our own actions is thought to be grounded in pre-reflective and low-level sensorimotor representations of the self as different from the other. It has been suggested that the inferior parietal lobe (IPL) is generally involved in self-other differentiation processes and in providing an explicit sense of action authorship. However, direct evidence for its causal and functional role in distinguishing self-related and other-related sensorimotor representations is lacking. The current study employed theta-burst stimulation (TBS) to condition left IPL's activity before a social version of the rubber hand illusion led participants to illusorily attribute observed finger movements to their own body. We recorded motor evoked potentials to single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation over the primary motor cortex (M1) as proxies of action authorship during action observation. The results showed that in a control condition (intermediate TBS over the left IPL) others' actions facilitated whereas self-attributed movements inhibited the motor system. Critically, continuous TBS disrupted this mismatch between self and other representations. This outcome provides direct evidence for the IPL's role in providing fundamental authorship signals for social differentiation in the human action system.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Theta Rhythm*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
  • Young Adult