Our main interest is the neural basis of non-verbal communication. On way to approach this topic is to consider this problem from a motoric point of view. The mirror neurons system has been depicted as responsible for understanding other’s actions. Accordingly, many brain-imaging experiments have shown that the same cortical regions are involved in executing or observing a movement. Indeed, observing a movement increases activity in the mirror system to a point that it can perturb our own movement production, as we have demonstrated in Kilner, Paulignan & Blakemore (2003) or increase our performance (Menoret et al., 2013 Exp. Brain Res.).
To better understand this “action execution-observation” system, we developed a task based on cooperative gestures to determine if some participant’s brain activity, when synchronized on movement parameters of the actor (such as movement onset), is specific of the interaction per se. Indeed during social interaction the action perception network should be activated in a specific manner. Hari and Kujala (2009) proposed the existence of a communicative loop, i.e. the coupling of perceptive and motor systems to form internal representations of others’ actions.
The data from our most recent work suggest that this communicative loop leads to a representation of joint rather than individual action. Hence, if co-actors form action plans that specify the actions to be performed jointly, individuals are more strongly influenced by the observation of joint rather than individual actions. During joint action each participant thus constructs representation of his own movement as well as of the common action. The aim of our project will be to show the progressive construction of the common representation between participants to joint action through kinematic changes and associated EEG modifications. The participants will have to execute joint action that can be successful only when an efficient coordination of the movements of each participant with those of the other participant is achieved. We will also quantify how each participant adapts her/his movement to facilitate the other’s action in order to achieve the final goal.