Mental Action Simulation Synchronizes Action-Observation Circuits across Individuals

Lauri Nummenmaa, Dmitry Smirnov, Juha M. Lahnakoski, Enrico Glerean, Iiro P. Jaaskelainen, Mikko Sams, Riitta Hari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)
125 Downloads (Pure)


A frontoparietal action–observation network (AON) has been proposed to support understanding others' actions and goals. We show that the AON “ticks together” in human subjects who are sharing a third person's feelings. During functional magnetic resonance imaging, 20 volunteers watched movies depicting boxing matches passively or while simulating a prespecified boxer's feelings. Instantaneous intersubject phase synchronization (ISPS) was computed to derive multisubject voxelwise similarity of hemodynamic activity and inter-area functional connectivity. During passive viewing, subjects' brain activity was synchronized in sensory projection and posterior temporal cortices. Simulation induced widespread increase of ISPS in the AON (premotor, posterior parietal, and superior temporal cortices), primary and secondary somatosensory cortices, and the dorsal attention circuits (frontal eye fields, intraparietal sulcus). Moreover, interconnectivity of these regions strengthened during simulation. We propose that sharing a third person's feelings synchronizes the observer's own brain mechanisms supporting sensations and motor planning, thereby likely promoting mutual understanding.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)748-757
Number of pages10
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2014
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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