Rapid neural discrimination of communicative gestures

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Humans are biased toward social interaction. Behaviorally, this bias is evident in the rapid effects that self-relevant communicative signals have on attention and perceptual systems. The processing of communicative cues recruits a wide network of brain regions, including mentalizing systems. Relatively less work, however, has examined the timing of the processing of self-relevant communicative cues. In the present study, we used multivariate pattern analysis (decoding) approach to the analysis of magnetoencephalography (MEG) to study the processing dynamics of social-communicative actions. Twenty-four participants viewed images of a woman performing actions that varied on a continuum of communicative factors including self-relevance (to the participant) and emotional valence, while their brain activity was recorded using MEG. Controlling for low-level visual factors, we found early discrimination of emotional valence (70 ms) and self-relevant communicative signals (100 ms). These data offer neural support for the robust and rapid effects of self-relevant communicative cues on behavior.

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