[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Different views on the origin of deficits in action chaining in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have been posited, ranging from functional impairments in action planning to internal models supporting motor control. Thirty-one children and adolescents with ASD and twenty-nine matched controls participated in a two-choice reach-to-grasp paradigm wherein participants received cueing information indicating either the object location or the required manner of grasping. A similar advantage for location cueing over grip cueing was found in both groups. Both accuracy and reaction times of the ASD group were indistinguishable from the control group. In contrast, movement times of the ASD group were significantly delayed in comparison with controls. These findings suggest that movement execution rather than action planning is deficient in ASD, and that deficits in action chaining derive from impairments in internal action models supporting action execution.
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 04/2013; · 3.06 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Paying attention to thin media models may negatively affect women's self-evaluation. This study aimed to reduce the amount of attention that young women give to appearance-related information by challenging the sociocultural norms for appearance, and studied the moderating role of self-esteem. Seventy-one college women either received norm-confirming, norm-challenging, or no information regarding the sociocultural norms for appearance. Subsequently, participants' visual attention to appearance-related and neutral advertisements was measured using an eye-tracker. The results demonstrate that when no information or norm-confirming information was received, women with lower self-esteem paid more attention to the appearance-related advertisements than women with higher self-esteem. Importantly however, when norm-challenging information was received, women with lower self-esteem paid significantly less attention to the appearance-related ads than women with lower self-esteem who did not receive this manipulation. These findings indicate that challenging the sociocultural norms for appearance can attenuate the amount of attention women give to appearance-related media.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Our capacity to use tools and objects is often considered one of the hallmarks of the human species. Many objects greatly extend our bodily capabilities to act in the physical world, such as when using a hammer or a saw. In addition, humans have the remarkable capability to use objects in a flexible fashion and to combine multiple objects in complex actions. We prepare coffee, cook dinner and drive our car. In this review we propose that humans have developed declarative and procedural knowledge, i.e. action semantics that enables us to use objects in a meaningful way. A state-of-the-art review of research on object use is provided, involving behavioral, developmental, neuropsychological and neuroimaging studies. We show that research in each of these domains is characterized by similar discussions regarding (1) the role of object affordances, (2) the relation between goals and means in object use and (3) the functional and neural organization of action semantics. We propose a novel conceptual framework of action semantics to address these issues and to integrate the previous findings. We argue that action semantics entails both multimodal object representations and modality-specific sub systems, involving manipulation knowledge, functional knowledge and representations of the sensory and proprioceptive consequences of object use. Furthermore, we argue that action semantics are hierarchically organized and selectively activated and used depending on the action intention of the actor and the current task context. Our framework presents an integrative account of multiple findings and perspectives on object use that may guide future studies in this interdisciplinary domain.
Physics of Life Reviews 01/2013; · 6.58 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Humans are experts in cooperating in a smooth and proactive manner. Action and intention understanding are critical components of efficient joint action. In the context of the EU Integrated Project JAST  we have developed an anthropomorphic robot endowed with these cognitive capacities. This project and respective robot (ARoS) is the focus of the video. More specifically, the results illustrate crucial cognitive capacities for efficient and successful human-robot collaboration such as goal inference, error detection and anticipatory action selection. Results were considered one of the ICT “success stories”.
IROS 2012 - International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2012; 10/2012
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The present study investigated the effect of sexually objectifying music video exposure on young women's implicit bodily self-perception and the moderating role of self-esteem. Fifty-six college women of normal weight were either exposed to three sexually objectifying music videos or three neutral music videos. Perceived and ideal body size were measured both before and after video exposure, using horizontally stretched and compressed photographs of the participant's own body in swimming garment. As expected, only women low (but not high) in self-esteem were negatively affected by the sexually objectifying content of the music videos: they perceived themselves as bigger and showed an increased discrepancy between their perceived and ideal body size after video exposure. The neutral music videos did not influence women's bodily self-perceptions. These findings suggest that body image is a flexible construct, and that high self-esteem can protect women against the adverse effects of sexually objectifying media.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: EEG-biofeedback has been reported to reduce symptoms of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in several studies. However, these studies did not control for nonspecific effects of EEG-biofeedback and did not distinguish between participants who succeeded in influencing their own EEG activity and participants who did not. To overcome these methodological shortcomings, this study evaluated the effects of EEG-biofeedback in ASD in a randomized pretest-posttest control group design with blinded active comparator and six months follow-up. Thirty-eight participants were randomly allocated to the EEG-biofeedback, skin conductance (SC)-biofeedback or waiting list group. EEG- and SC-biofeedback sessions were similar and participants were blinded to the type of feedback they received. Assessments pre-treatment, post-treatment, and after 6 months included parent ratings of symptoms of ASD, executive function tasks, and 19-channel EEG recordings. Fifty-four percent of the participants significantly reduced delta and/or theta power during EEG-biofeedback sessions and were identified as EEG-regulators. In these EEG-regulators, no statistically significant reductions of symptoms of ASD were observed, but they showed significant improvement in cognitive flexibility as compared to participants who managed to regulate SC. EEG-biofeedback seems to be an applicable tool to regulate EEG activity and has specific effects on cognitive flexibility, but it did not result in significant reductions in symptoms of ASD. An important finding was that no nonspecific effects of EEG-biofeedback were demonstrated.
Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback 08/2012; · 1.13 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This fMRI study investigates the neural mechanisms supporting the retrieval of action semantics. A novel motor imagery task was used in which participants were required to imagine planning actions with a familiar object (e.g. a toothbrush) or with an unfamiliar object (e.g. a pair of pliers) based on either goal-related information (i.e. where to move the object) or grip-related information (i.e. how to grasp the object). Planning actions with unfamiliar compared to familiar objects was slower and was associated with increased activation in the bilateral superior parietal lobe, the right inferior parietal lobe and the right insula. The stronger activation in parietal areas for unfamiliar objects fits well with the idea that parietal areas are involved in motor imagery and suggests that this process takes more effort in the case of novel or unfamiliar actions. In contrast, the planning of familiar actions resulted in increased activation in the anterior prefrontal cortex, suggesting that subjects maintained a stronger goal-representation when planning actions with familiar compared to unfamiliar objects. These findings provide further insight into the neural structures that support action semantic knowledge for the functional use of real-world objects and suggest that action semantic knowledge is activated most readily when actions are planned in a goal-directed manner.
Experimental Brain Research 02/2012; 218(2):189-200. · 2.22 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Detecting errors in other's actions is of pivotal importance for joint action, competitive behavior and observational learning. Although many studies have focused on the neural mechanisms involved in detecting low-level errors, relatively little is known about error-detection in everyday situations. The present study aimed to identify the functional and neural mechanisms whereby we understand the correctness of other's actions involving well-known objects (e.g. pouring coffee in a cup). Participants observed action sequences in which the correctness of the object grasped and the grip applied to a pair of objects were independently manipulated. Observation of object violations (e.g. grasping the empty cup instead of the coffee pot) resulted in a stronger P3-effect than observation of grip errors (e.g. grasping the coffee pot at the upper part instead of the handle), likely reflecting a reorienting response, directing attention to the relevant location. Following the P3-effect, a parietal slow wave positivity was observed that persisted for grip-errors, likely reflecting the detection of an incorrect hand-object interaction. These findings provide new insight in the functional significance of the neurophysiological markers associated with the observation of incorrect actions and suggest that the P3-effect and the subsequent parietal slow wave positivity may reflect the detection of errors at different levels in the action hierarchy. Thereby this study elucidates the cognitive processes that support the detection of action violations in the selection of objects and grips.
PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(5):e36450. · 3.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Millions of people worldwide engage in online role-playing with their avatar, a virtual agent that represents the self. Previous behavioral studies have indicated that many gamers identify more strongly with their avatar than with their biological self. Through their avatar, gamers develop social networks and learn new social-cognitive skills. The cognitive neurosciences have yet to identify the neural processes that underlie self-identification with these virtual agents. We applied functional neuroimaging to 22 long-term online gamers and 21 nongaming controls, while they rated personality traits of self, avatar, and familiar others. Strikingly, neuroimaging data revealed greater avatar-referential cortical activity in the left inferior parietal lobe, a region associated with self-identification from a third-person perspective. The magnitude of this brain activity correlated positively with the propensity to incorporate external body enhancements into one's bodily identity. Avatar-referencing furthermore recruited greater activity in the rostral anterior cingulate gyrus, suggesting relatively greater emotional self-involvement with one's avatar. Post-scanning behavioral data revealed superior recognition memory for avatar relative to others. Interestingly, memory for avatar positively covaried with play duration. These findings significantly advance our knowledge about the brain's plasticity to self-identify with virtual agents and the human cognitive-affective potential to live and learn in virtual worlds.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Following the theoretical notion that tools often extend one's body, in the present study, we investigated whether imitation of hand or tool actions is modulated by effector-specific information. Subjects performed grasping actions toward an object with either a handheld tool or their right hand. Actions were initiated in response to pictures representing a grip at an object that could be congruent or incongruent with the required action (grip-type congruency). Importantly, actions could be cued by means of a tool cue, a hand cue, and a symbolic cue (effector-type congruency). For both hand and tool actions, an action congruency effect was observed, reflected in faster reaction times if the observed grip type was congruent with the required movement. However, neither hand actions nor tool actions were differentially affected by the effector represented in the picture (i.e., when performing a tool action, the action congruency effect was similar for tool cues and hand cues). This finding suggests that imitation of hand and tool actions is effector-independent and thereby supports generalist rather than specialist theories of imitation.
Experimental Brain Research 09/2011; 214(4):539-47. · 2.22 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Many studies have suggested that the motor system is organized in a hierarchical fashion, around the prototypical end location associated with using objects. However, most studies supporting the hierarchical view have used well-known actions and objects that are highly over-learned. Accordingly, at present it is unclear if the hierarchical principle applies to learning the use of novel objects as well. In the present study we found that when learning to use a novel object subjects acquired an action representation of the end location associated with using the object, as evidenced by slower responses in an action observation task, when the object was presented at an incorrect end location. By showing the importance of knowledge about end locations when learning to use a novel object, the present study suggests that end locations are a fundamental organizing feature of the human motor system.
Consciousness and Cognition 06/2011; 20(4):1304-14. · 2.31 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Abstract Downing and Peelen argue for a clear distinction between body and identity representation, with the former performed by EBA and FBA, and the latter performed elsewhere in the brain. Under a predictive coding account, we argue that this separation is unnecessary: Representing bodies is part of representing identity. While neurons in EBA and FBA may only code for body shape and posture, we propose that they are a part of a reciprocally connected cortical network that functions to minimize prediction error when making identity inferences. We propose a novel way to test the hypothesis that EBA and FBA are critically involved in person identification.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Qualitative differences in social interaction and communication are diagnostic hallmarks in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The present study investigated the hypothesis that impaired social interaction in ASD reflects a deficit to internally model the behavior of a co- actor. Children and adolescents with ASD and matched controls performed a computerized bar-balancing task in a solo condition (S), and together with another individual in two joint action conditions (J2 and J4) in which they used either two or four hands to control the bar lift. Consistent with predictions derived from the 'internal modelling hypothesis', results from the J2 task indicated that ASD dyads were impaired in predicting the occurrence of their partner's response and failed to coordinate their actions in time. Furthermore, results from the J4 task showed that ASD participants used an adaptive strategy to disambiguate their responses from their partner's by regulating opposite sides of the bar during lifting. These findings provide empirical support of theories positing the existence of an internal modelling deficit in ASD. In addition, our findings suggest that impaired social reciprocal behavior and joint cooperative play exhibited by individuals with ASD may reflect behavioral adaptations to evade conflicting or ambiguous information in social settings.
Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders - RES AUTISM SPECTR DISORD. 01/2011; 5(4).
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Effects of neurofeedback treatment were investigated in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Sixty percent of the participants in the treatment group successfully reduced excessive theta power during neurofeedback treatment. Reduction of theta power was confirmed by pre- and post-QEEG measures. Parents of participants in the neurofeedback treatment group reported significant improvements in reciprocal social interactions and communication skills, relative to the parents of the control group. Set-shifting skills improved following neurofeedback treatment relative to the control group. The reduction of theta power is assumed to reflect modulation of activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which is known to be involved in social and executive dysfunctions in autism.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In line with previous studies, showing that abstract concepts like "power" or "god" implicitly activate spatial associations, in the present study we hypothesized that spatial associations are coactivated during the processing of acronyms referring to names of political parties as well. In four studies, it was found that the reading of these acronyms was accompanied by the implicit activation of spatial left-right associations. That is, participants responded faster to left-wing parties by means of a left-hand button press and vice versa for right-wing parties (Experiments 1 to 3), and participants responded faster when a political acronym was presented at the side of the screen corresponding to the political orientation of the acronym (Experiment 4). Interestingly, a correlation was observed between the effect size for left-wing parties and participants' political preferences, suggesting that the reaction time effects reflect the perceived distance of a party to one's own political orientation. Together these findings indicate that spatial representations activated in response to political acronyms do not simply reflect lexical-semantic associations or spatial metaphors, but representations of parties' political orientation relative to one's own sociopolitical position.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The present ERP study investigated when and how action semantics, i.e. the conceptual knowledge that we acquired over the course of our lives, is activated during the preparation of object-directed actions. Subjects were required to grasp one of two objects and were implicitly instructed to either perform a meaningful action (e.g. moving a cup towards the mouth) or a meaningless action with the object (e.g. moving a cup towards the eye). A larger anterior N400 was found for the preparation of meaningful compared to meaningless actions, likely reflecting the retrieval of action semantic information in case a meaningful action was required with the object. The distribution and the latency of the anterior N400-effect were strongly related to standard N400-repetition effects, thereby further corroborating the semantic nature of the effect. In sum, the present study provides new insight in the neural and temporal dynamics underlying semantics for action.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Recent studies suggest that in addition to low-level motor impairments, individuals with hemiparetic cerebral palsy (HCP) are characterized by anticipatory action planning deficits as well. In the present EEG study we investigated the neural and temporal dynamics of action planning in participants with right-sided HCP (n=10) and in left-handed control subjects (n=10). An anticipatory planning task was used in which participants were required to grasp and rotate a hexagonal knob over different angles (60 degrees, 120 degrees or 180 degrees). At a behavioral level, participants with HCP were slower in their movements and often selected an inappropriate grip when grasping the object. At a neural level, individuals with HCP showed a strong reduction in the amplitude of the P2 component, likely reflecting an impaired process of action selection. In addition, a strong correlation was observed between the P2 amplitude and grasping and rotation times. The P2 component was localized to sources in the dorsal posterior cingulate cortex (dPCC), an area that is known to be involved in orienting visual body parts in space. Together these findings suggest that anticipatory planning deficits in cerebral palsy arise mainly due to an impaired process of action selection.
Brain research 08/2010; 1349:56-67. · 2.46 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The present study investigated the selection for action hypothesis, according to which a subject's action intention to perform a movement influences the way in which visual information is being processed. Subjects were instructed in separate blocks either to grasp or to point to a three-dimensional target-object and event-related potentials were recorded relative to stimulus onset. It was found that grasping compared with pointing resulted in a stronger N1 component and a subsequent selection negativity, which were localized to the lateral occipital complex. These effects suggest that the intention to grasp influences the processing of action-relevant features in ventral stream areas already at an early stage (e.g., enhanced processing of object orientation for grasping). These findings provide new insight in the neural and temporal dynamics underlying perception-action coupling and provide neural evidence for a selection for action principle in early human visual processing.
Journal of Neurophysiology 08/2010; 104(2):972-83. · 3.30 Impact Factor