Brain Topography

, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 672–682 | Cite as

Agency and Ownership are Independent Components of ‘Sensing the Self’ in the Auditory-Verbal Domain

  • Daniela Hubl
  • Rahel C. Schneider
  • Mara Kottlow
  • Jochen Kindler
  • Werner Strik
  • Thomas Dierks
  • Thomas Koenig
Original Paper


’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.


Language 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.

Supplementary material

10548_2014_351_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (146 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 147 kb)


  1. Allen P, Amaro E, Fu CH, Williams SC, Brammer MJ, Johns LC, McGuire PK (2007) Neural correlates of the misattribution of speech in schizophrenia. Br J Psychiatry 190:162–169PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baess P, Horvath J, Jacobsen T, Schroger E (2011) Selective suppression of self-initiated sounds in an auditory stream: an ERP study. Psychophysiology 48(9):1276–1283PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Behroozmand R, Larson CR (2011) Error-dependent modulation of speech induced auditory suppression for pitch-shifted voice feedback. BMC Neurosci. doi: 10.1186/1471-2202-12-54 PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Blakemore SJ, Wolpert D, Frith C (2000) Why can’t you tickle yourself? NeuroReport 11:R11–R16PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blakemore SJ, Wolpert DM, Frith CD (2002) Abnormalities in the awareness of action. Trends Cogn Sci 6:237–242PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Crapse TB, Sommer MA (2008) Corollary discharge across the animal kingdom. Nat Rev Neurosci 9:587–600PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Curio G, Neuloh G, Numminen J, Jousmaki V, Hari R (2000) Speaking modifies voice-evoked activity in the human auditory cortex. Hum Brain Mapp 9:183–191PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dierks T, Linden DE, Jandl M, Formisano E, Goebel R, Lanfermann H, Singer W (1999) Activation of Heschl’s gyrus during auditory hallucinations. Neuron 22:615–621PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Eichele T, Nordby H, Rimol LM, Hugdahl K (2005) Asymmetry of evoked potential latency to speech sounds predicts the ear advantage in dichotic listening. Brain Res Cogn Brain Res 24:405–412PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Feinberg I (1978) Efference copy and corollary discharge: implications for thinking and its disorders. Schizophr Bull 4:636–640PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fiez JA, Petersen SE (1998) Neuroimaging studies of word reading. PNAS USA 95:914–921PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ford JM, Mathalon DH, Heinks T, Kalba S, Faustman WO, Roth WT (2001a) Neurophysiological evidence of corollary discharge dysfunction in schizophrenia. Am J Psychiatry 158:2069–2071PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ford JM, Mathalon DH, Kalba S, Whitfield S, Faustman WO, Roth WT (2001b) Cortical responsiveness during talking and listening in schizophrenia: an event-related brain potential study. Biol Psychiatry 50:540–549PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ford JM, Gray M, Faustman WO, Roach BJ, Mathalon DH (2007) Dissecting corollary discharge dysfunction in schizophrenia. Psychophysiology 44:522–529PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ford JM, Mathalon DH (2012) Anticipating the future: automatic prediction failures in schizophrenia. Int J Psychophysiol 83:232–239PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fu CH, Vythelingum GN, Brammer MJ, Williams SC, Amaro E Jr, Andrew CM, Yaguez L, van Haren NE, Matsumoto K, McGuire PK (2006) An fMRI study of verbal self-monitoring: neural correlates of auditory verbal feedback. Cereb Cortex 16:969–977PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gould L, Cummine J, Borowsky R (2012) The cognitive chronometric architecture of reading aloud: semantic and lexical effects on naming onset and duration. Front Hum Neurosci 6:287PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Heinks-Maldonado TH, Mathalon DH, Gray M, Ford JM (2005) Fine-tuning of auditory cortex during speech production. Psychophysiology 42:180–190PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Heinks-Maldonado TH, Mathalon DH, Houde JF, Gray M, Faustman WO, Ford JM (2007) Relationship of imprecise corollary discharge in schizophrenia to auditory hallucinations. Arch Gen Psychiatry 64:286–296PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Helmholtz Hv (1924) Helmholtz’s treatise on physiological optics. Optical Society of America, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  21. Holst Ev (1954) Relations between the central nervous system and the peripheral organs. Br J Anim Behav 2:89–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Houde JF, Jordan MI (1998) Sensorimotor adaptation in speech production. Science 279:1213–1216PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Houde JF, Nagarajan SS, Sekihara K, Merzenich MM (2002) Modulation of the auditory cortex during speech: an MEG study. J Cogn Neurosci 14:1125–1138PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hubl D, Koenig T, Strik WK, Garcia LM, Dierks T (2007) Competition for neuronal resources: how hallucinations make themselves heard. Br J Psychiatry 190:57–62PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jackson JH (1958) Selected writings of John Hughlings. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  26. Johns LC, McGuire PK (1999) Verbal self-monitoring and auditory hallucinations in schizophrenia. Lancet 353(9151):469–470PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jung TP, Makeig S, Westerfield M, Townsend J, Courchesne E, Sejnowski TJ (2000) Removal of eye activity artifacts from visual event-related potentials in normal and clinical subjects. Clin Neurophysiol 111:1745–1758PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kalckert A, Ehrsson HH (2012) Moving a rubber hand that feels like your own: a dissociation of ownership and agency. Front Hum Neurosci 6:40PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Koenig T, Kottlow M, Stein M, Melie-Garcia L (2011) Ragu: a free tool for the analysis of EEG and MEG event-related scalp field data using global randomization statistics. Comput Intell Neurosci 2011:938925PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Koenig T, van Swam C, Dierks T, Hubl D (2012) Is gamma band EEG synchronization reduced during auditory driving in schizophrenia patients with auditory verbal hallucinations? Schizophr Res 141:266–270PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kottlow M, Jann K, Dierks T, Koenig T (2012) Increased phase synchronization during continuous face integration measured simultaneously with EEG and fMRI. Clin Neurophysiol 123:1536–1548PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Leube DT, Knoblich G, Erb M, Grodd W, Bartels M, Kircher TT (2003) The neural correlates of perceiving one’s own movements. Neuroimage 20:2084–2090PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Macphee GJ, Crowther JA, McAlpine CH (1988) A simple screening test for hearing impairment in elderly patients. Age Ageing 17:347–351PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Maidhof C, Vavatzanidis N, Prinz W, Rieger M, Koelsch S (2010) Processing expectancy violations during music performance and perception: an ERP study. J Cogn Neurosci 22:2401–2413PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McCarthy-Jones S, Trauer T, Mackinnon A, Sims E, Thomas N, Copolov DL (2012) A new phenomenological survey of auditory hallucinations: evidence for subtypes and implications for theory and practice. Schizophr Bull. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbs156 Google Scholar
  36. Michel CM, Koenig T, Brandeis D (2009) Electrical neuroimaging in the time domain. In: Michel CM, Koenig T, Brandeis D, Gianotti LRR, Wackermann J (eds) Electrical neuroimaging. Cambridge University Press, New York, pp 111–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nahab FB, Kundu P, Gallea C, Kakareka J, Pursley R, Pohida T, Miletta N, Friedman J, Hallett M (2011) The neural processes underlying self-agency. Cereb Cortex 21:48–55PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pantev C, Hoke M, Lehnertz K, Lutkenhoner B, Anogianakis G, Wittkowski W (1988) Tonotopic organization of the human auditory cortex revealed by transient auditory evoked magnetic fields. Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol 69:160–170PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pascual-Marqui RD (2002) Standardized low-resolution brain electromagnetic tomography (sLORETA): technical details. Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol 24(Suppl D):5–12PubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Raij TT, Valkonen-Korhonen M, Holi M, Therman S, Lehtonen J, Hari R (2009) Reality of auditory verbal hallucinations. Brain 132:2994–3001PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sperry RW (1950) Neural basis of the spontaneous optokinetic response produced by visual inversion. J Comp Physiol Psychol 43(6):482–489PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Strik WK, Fallgatter AJ, Brandeis D, Pascual-Marqui RD (1998) Three-dimensional tomography of event-related potentials during response inhibition: evidence for phasic frontal lobe activation. Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol 108:406–413PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Synofzik M, Vosgerau G, Voss M (2013) The experience of agency: an interplay between prediction and postdiction. Front Psychol 4:127PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. van Veen V, Carter CS (2002) The anterior cingulate as a conflict monitor: fMRI and ERP studies. Physiol Behav 77:477–482PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wang L, Metzak PD, Woodward TS (2011) Aberrant connectivity during self-other source monitoring in schizophrenia. Schizophr Res 125:136–142PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wirth M, Horn H, Koenig T, Razafimandimby A, Stein M, Mueller T, Federspiel A, Meier B, Dierks T, Strik W (2008) The early context effect reflects activity in the temporo-prefrontal semantic system: evidence from electrical neuroimaging of abstract and concrete word reading. Neuroimage 42:423–436PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wirth M, Jann K, Dierks T, Federspiel A, Wiest R, Horn H (2011) Semantic memory involvement in the default mode network: a functional neuroimaging study using independent component analysis. Neuroimage 54:3057–3066PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wurtz RH (2008) Neuronal mechanisms of visual stability. Vision Res 48:2070–2089PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniela Hubl
    • 1
  • Rahel C. Schneider
    • 1
  • Mara Kottlow
    • 1
  • Jochen Kindler
    • 1
  • Werner Strik
    • 1
  • Thomas Dierks
    • 1
  • Thomas Koenig
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatric NeurophysiologyUniversity Hospital of PsychiatryBern 60Switzerland

Personalised recommendations