Imitating others' actions: transcranial magnetic stimulation of the parietal opercula reveals the processes underlying automatic imitation


Correspondence: Dr P. Mengotti, as above.



The human tendency to imitate gestures performed by conspecifics is automatic in nature. However, whether this automatic imitation can be considered as a true imitative phenomenon or only as a special instance of spatial compatibility is still being debated. New evidence suggests that automatic imitation, otherwise known as ‘imitative compatibility’, shall be considered as a phenomenon that operates independently from spatial compatibility. So far there are only a few investigations directly aimed at identifying the neural structures dedicated to this process. In the present study, we applied double-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) over the parietal opercula to further investigate the role of these regions in coding imitative compatibility. We found that a temporary disruption of parietal opercula caused the reduction of the imitative compatibility relative to the sham condition. In particular, the TMS interference with the parietal opercula's activity modulated the imitative compatibility but not the spatial compatibility, suggesting that these two processes are likely to be independent.