Spatio-Temporal Dynamics of Intention Understanding In Friendship: An Electrical Brain Imaging Study in Dyads with Shared Representations of Actions

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Stephanie Ortigue


Electrical Neuroimaging, Embodied Cognition, Friendship, Intention Understanding, Mirror Neuron System, Self-Expansion model

Subject Categories



A growing body of research demonstrates congruence between observed actions and integrated templates of past self-related motor experiences facilitate intention understanding of others, especially for couples in love. Little is known, however, about the spatio-temporal dynamics of this facilitation mechanism in populations with varying levels of dyadic emotional bonds (friendship) and self-other closeness (IOS). To address this, we tested intention understanding in 24 dyads with high levels of friendship and IOS, by utilizing high-density 128-channel electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings and behavioral measures (accuracy and reaction times). Behavioral results showed no significant differences for accuracy. Participants were, nevertheless, faster at understanding intentional actions compared to accidental actions, independently of the agent who was acting. A negative correlation was also observed between reaction times for decoding accidental actions and IOS levels, suggesting that the closer participants felt to their best friends the faster they understood their accidental actions. Electrophysiological results extended these findings by demonstrating that visual-evoked potentials (VEPs) for understanding friends' accidental actions were characterized by a significant scalp potential field from 46 to 266 ms after stimulus onset. LORETA source estimation of this specific scalp potential field revealed a left-lateralized current source density maximum in the middle temporal gyrus (MTG). The recruitment of the MTG for understanding friends' accidental actions reinforces its involvement in social perception, and suggests that the MTG may play a crucial role in error detection for intentions performed by individuals with whom participants share high IOS levels.


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