Enhancing activation in the right temporoparietal junction using theta-burst stimulation: Disambiguating between two hypotheses of top-down control of behavioral mimicry

PLoS One. 2019 Jan 25;14(1):e0211279. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0211279. eCollection 2019.


Whereas previous research has focused on the role of the rTPJ when consciously inhibiting mimicry, we test the role of the rTPJ on mimicry within a social interaction, during which mimicking occurs nonconsciously. We wanted to determine whether higher rTPJ activation always inhibits the tendency to imitate (regardless of the context) or whether it facilitates mimicry during social interactions (when mimicking is an adaptive response). Participants received either active or sham intermittent theta-burst stimulation (iTBS: a type of stimulation that increases cortical activation) to the rTPJ. Next, we measured how much participants mimicked the hair and face touching of another person. Participants in the active stimulation condition engaged in significantly less mimicry than those in the sham stimulation condition. This finding suggests that even in a context in which mimicking is adaptive, rTPJ inhibits mimicry rather than facilitating it, supporting the hypothesis that rTPJ enhances representations of self over other regardless of the goals within a given context.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*
  • Touch / physiology*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.