Dartmouth study finds how the brain interprets the intent of others

February 16, 2006

Two Dartmouth researchers have learned more about how the human brain interprets the actions and intentions of others.

Scott Grafton, professor of psychological and brain sciences, and Antonia Hamilton, a post-doctoral fellow, have learned that the brain's parietal cortex handles how we understand the goals of other people's actions. Their study was published on January 25 by The Journal of Neuroscience.

"We were able to find the part of the brain involved in interpreting the goal of another person, even if no words are spoken," says Hamilton. "When you see another person reach for an object that they want, like a cookie, a bit of brain called the anterior intraparietal sulcus, which is found in the parietal lobe, is strongly activated."

She explains that their result is surprising because many would have predicted that the frontal cortex, normally associated with language and understanding, would be activated in this situation, not the parietal cortex, usually thought to be involved with space and movement. Also, Hamilton says that with this study, they have shown it's possible to localize abstract things, like goals, in the brain.

"So, as we learn more about how the brain responds to seeing other people do things, we can start to understand the neural basis of human social interactions. This may help us understand what goes wrong in impaired social interactions, like in children with autism, who sometimes fail to interpret actions correctly."
-end-
The study involved twenty participants who watched a series of short movies, shown in a random order, while their brain activity was measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The movies depicted a hand reaching, grasping, and taking one of two objects. For example, a hand takes a cookie or takes a computer disk. The participants then answered yes or no questions that elicited their understanding of the goals involved of the actions represented in movies.

The study was funded by the James S. McDonnell Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Dartmouth College

Related Brain Articles from Brightsurf:

Glioblastoma nanomedicine crosses into brain in mice, eradicates recurring brain cancer
A new synthetic protein nanoparticle capable of slipping past the nearly impermeable blood-brain barrier in mice could deliver cancer-killing drugs directly to malignant brain tumors, new research from the University of Michigan shows.

Children with asymptomatic brain bleeds as newborns show normal brain development at age 2
A study by UNC researchers finds that neurodevelopmental scores and gray matter volumes at age two years did not differ between children who had MRI-confirmed asymptomatic subdural hemorrhages when they were neonates, compared to children with no history of subdural hemorrhage.

New model of human brain 'conversations' could inform research on brain disease, cognition
A team of Indiana University neuroscientists has built a new model of human brain networks that sheds light on how the brain functions.

Human brain size gene triggers bigger brain in monkeys
Dresden and Japanese researchers show that a human-specific gene causes a larger neocortex in the common marmoset, a non-human primate.

Unique insight into development of the human brain: Model of the early embryonic brain
Stem cell researchers from the University of Copenhagen have designed a model of an early embryonic brain.

An optical brain-to-brain interface supports information exchange for locomotion control
Chinese researchers established an optical BtBI that supports rapid information transmission for precise locomotion control, thus providing a proof-of-principle demonstration of fast BtBI for real-time behavioral control.

Transplanting human nerve cells into a mouse brain reveals how they wire into brain circuits
A team of researchers led by Pierre Vanderhaeghen and Vincent Bonin (VIB-KU Leuven, Université libre de Bruxelles and NERF) showed how human nerve cells can develop at their own pace, and form highly precise connections with the surrounding mouse brain cells.

Brain scans reveal how the human brain compensates when one hemisphere is removed
Researchers studying six adults who had one of their brain hemispheres removed during childhood to reduce epileptic seizures found that the remaining half of the brain formed unusually strong connections between different functional brain networks, which potentially help the body to function as if the brain were intact.

Alcohol byproduct contributes to brain chemistry changes in specific brain regions
Study of mouse models provides clear implications for new targets to treat alcohol use disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome.

Scientists predict the areas of the brain to stimulate transitions between different brain states
Using a computer model of the brain, Gustavo Deco, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, and Josephine Cruzat, a member of his team, together with a group of international collaborators, have developed an innovative method published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Sept.

Read More: Brain News and Brain Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.