Sense of agency as synecdoche: Multiple neurobiological mechanisms may underlie the phenomenon summarized as sense of agency

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Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies on the sense of agency (SoA) have yielded heterogeneous findings identifying regional brain activity during tasks that probed SoA. In this review, we argue that the reason behind this between-study heterogeneity is a “synecdochic” way the field conceptualizes and studies SoA. Typically, a single feature is experimentally manipulated and then this is interpreted as covering all aspects of SoA. The purpose of this paper is to give an overview of the fMRI studies of SoA and attempt to provide meaningful categories whereby the heterogeneous findings may be classified. This classification is based on a separation of the experimental paradigms (Feedback Manipulations of ongoing movements, Action-Effect, and Sensory Attenuation) and type of report employed (implicit, explicit reports of graded or dichotic nature, and whether these concern self-other distinctions or sense of control). We only find that Feedback Manipulation and Action-Effect share common activation in supplementary motor area, insula and cerebellum in positive SoA and inferior frontal gyrus in the negative SoA, but observe large networks related to SoA only in Feedback Manipulation studies. To illustrate the advantages of this approach, we discuss the findings from an fMRI study which we conducted, within this framework.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103307
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Inc.

    Research areas

  • Action-effect, Explicit reports, Feedback manipulation, fMRI, Implicit measurements of sense of agency, Judgments of agency, Online monitoring of movements, Sense of agency, Sensorimotor integration, Volitional movements

ID: 304513825