distinction between representations of intentions and representations of motor

Distinction between representations of intentions and

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distinction between representations of intentions and representations of motor plans for realizing intentions. Theoretically , it seems more parsimonious to suppose that the representation of a intention includes at least a representation of a motor plan rather than being a distinct, wholly abstract representation. So, granted that matching activation in the motor system is not sufficient for identifying intentions, it may still be involved in identification, i.e. in combination with other processes. I will mention a few empirical studies that indeed suggest that this is the case. In an experiment conducted by Hamilton and Grafton (2006), areas having neural groups with mirroring properties, in particular the intraparietal sulcus (IPS), were found to habituate to repeated actions even if those actions are performed with slightly different movements, but not to the repeated movements constituting different actions. This suggests a higher level of representation than mere representation of bodily kinematics. Why should this be the case is if they are not making any contribution to action understanding?
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A skeptic might respond that MNS activation may be correlated with understanding intentions or emotions because it is caused by understanding rather than causally contributing to understanding. The claim that MNSs make a causal contribution would be supported either by finding (i) that individuals who are poor at social cognition have compromised MNSs or (ii) that people whose motor systems or emotional experience is compromised are impaired at understanding the corresponding actions or emotions of others. There is some support for both of these predictions. As for (i), EEG studies have shown that mu rhythm suppression – likely an indicator of MNS activity – does not occur in autistic individuals (who have social-cognitive deficits). It has also been found that the severity of autism is correlated with the degree of abnormality in MNS activation. Moreover, autistic individuals trained to suppress their own mu rhythms improve markedly at tests of social cognition (Oberman et al. 2005, Pineda et al. 2008). This suggests a more substantial role for MNSs in action understanding. As for (ii), there are some studies linking impaired motor skills to some impaired conceptual abilities. Parkinson’s patients, for example, are slower to process sentences with action verbs than with other kinds of verbs (Boulenger et al., 2008). Moreover, experiments on normal healthy individuals corroborate this assertion of a causal link between MNSs and social cognition. For example, modulating areas of the motor system known to have MNs (Broca’s area) by introducing “transient lesions” with TMS can cause subjects to have difficulties imitating observed actions, even if they do not have difficulties performing the actions when told to do so in non-imitative scenarios (Iacoboni 2008, 91).
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