Agency and Ownership are Independent Components of ‘Sensing the Self’ in the Auditory-Verbal Domain
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’Sensing the self’ relies on the ability to distinguish self-generated from external stimuli. It requires functioning mechanisms to establish feelings of agency and ownership. Agency is defined causally, where the subjects action is followed by an effect. Ownership is defined by the features of the effect, independent from the action. In our study, we manipulated these qualities separately. 13 right-handed healthy individuals performed the experiment while 76-channel EEG was recorded. Stimuli consisted of visually presented words, read aloud by the subject. The experiment consisted of six conditions: (a) subjects saw a word, read it aloud, heard it in their own voice; (b) like a, but the word was heard in an unfamiliar voice; (c) subject heard a word in his/her own voice without speaking; (d) like c, but the word was heard in an unfamiliar voice; (e) like a, but subjects heard the word with a delay; (f) subjects read without hearing. ERPs and difference maps were computed for all conditions. Effects were analysed topographically. The N100 (86–172 ms) displayed significant main effects of agency and ownership. The topographies of the two effects shared little common variance, suggesting independent effects. Later effects (174–400 ms) of agency and ownership were topographically similar, suggesting common mechanisms. Replicating earlier studies, significant N100 suppression was observed, with a topography resembling the agency effect. ‘Sensing the self’ appears to recruit from at least two very distinct processes: an agency assessment that represents causality and an ownership assessment that compares stimulus features with memory content.
KeywordsLanguage Self-monitoring Corollary discharge Healthy controls Auditory evoked potential N100 Topography
We are grateful to Miranka Wirth for providing the word stimuli. Further, we thank Nicolas Moor for testing out different delays.
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