ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (11): 1901-1910.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2021.01901

• Conceptual Framework •     Next Articles

The spatiotemporal markers for the sense of agency in the human brain

ZHAO Ke(), GU Jingjin, HUANG Guanhua, ZHENG Shuang, FU Xiaolan   

  1. State Key Laboratory of Brain and Cognitive Science, Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
    Department of Psychology, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2021-01-20 Online:2021-11-15 Published:2021-09-23
  • Contact: ZHAO Ke


Sense of agency (SOA) refers to the feeling of controlling one's own actions and events in the external world through voluntary actions. Over the past two decades, SOA has increasingly attracted attention from researchers, and its cognitive neural mechanism is still a cutting-edge scientific problem in this field. There are two ways to measure SOA: explicit measurement (i.e., the explicit judgements of agency reported by individuals) and implicit measurement (i.e., sensory perception difference). Both the temporal binding effect and the sensory attenuation effect can be used as implicit measures for SOA. Intention of action and sensory feedback are two core components constituting the SOA. Intention of action is a conscious experience of determining or planning to initiate an action. Extinction and termination of intention can prospectively affect SOA. The valence of action outcome, the causal relationship between an action and its outcome, and the characteristics of the outcome may retrospectively affect the sense of agency. According to the Comparator Model, a copy of the action command contained in the subjective intention predicts the outcome before action. When comparing the predicted sensory outcome with the actual feedback of the action, the prediction error is zero, generating SOA. Evidence from cognitive neuroscience suggests that intention may be closely related to the activities in the supplementary and pre-supplementary motor areas, and the action outcome may be related to the activities of the posterior parietal cortex. This project will focus on the neural substrates underlying SOA, and explore the prospective way of intention and the retrospective way of outcome exerting on SOA by manipulating different attributes of two core components (i.e., subjective intention and action outcome). The magnetoencephalography technology, which is of high temporal and spatial resolution, is employed to extract the time-space characteristics of SOA at the fronto-parietal network in both the time windows of action-outcome and after-outcome. Elucidating the neural mechanism of SOA will contribute to our understanding of the generation and aftereffects of human actions, thus providing implications for demarcating behavioral responsibilities in moral and legal settings, and for diagnosing related mental diseases.

Key words: sense of agency, action intention, outcome feedback, time compression

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