Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

Exp Brain Res. 2018 May 16. doi: 10.1007/s00221-018-5286-3

Violation of expectations about movement and goal achievement leads to Sense of Agency reduction

The control of one's own movements and of their impact on the external world generates a feeling of control referred to as Sense of Agency (SoA). SoA is experienced when actions match predictions and is reduced by unpredicted events. The present study investigated the contribution of monitoring two fundamental components of action-movement execution and goal achievement-that have been most often explored separately in previous research. We have devised a new paradigm in which participants performed goal-directed actions while viewing an avatar's hand in a mixed-reality scenario. The hand performed either the same action or a different one, simultaneously or after various delays. Movement of the virtual finger and goal attainment were manipulated, so that they could match or conflict with the participants' expectations. We collected judgments of correspondence (an explicit index of SoA that overcomes the tendency to over-attribute actions to oneself) by asking participants if the observed action was synchronous or not with their action. In keeping with previous studies, we found that monitoring both movement execution and goal attainment is relevant for SoA. Moreover, we expanded previous findings by showing that movement information may be a more constant source of SoA modulation than goal information. Indeed, an incongruent movement impaired SoA irrespective of delay duration, while a missed goal did so only when delays were short. Our novel paradigm allowed us to simultaneously manipulate multiple action features, a characteristic that makes it suitable for investigating the contribution of different sub-components of action in modulating SoA in healthy and clinical populations.

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