In the here and now: enhanced motor corticospinal excitability in novices when watching live compared to video recorded dance

Corinne Jola, Marie-Hélène Grosbras

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Enhanced motor corticospinal excitability (MCE) in passive action observation is thought to signify covert motor resonance with the actions seen. Actions performed by others are an important social stimulus and thus, motor resonance is prevalent during social interaction. However, most studies employ simple/short snippets of recorded movements devoid of any real-life social context, which has recently been criticized for lacking ecological validity. Here, we investigated whether the co-presence of the actor and the spectator has an impact on motor resonance by comparing novices’ MCE for the finger (FDI) and the arm (ECR) with single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation when watching five-minute solos of ballet dance, Bharatanatyam (Indian dance) and an acting control condition either live or on video. We found that (1) MCE measured in the arm muscle was significantly enhanced in the live compared to the video condition, (2) differences across performances were only evident in the live condition, and (3) our novices reported enjoying the live presentations significantly more. We suggest that novice spectators’ MCE is susceptible to the performers’ live presence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-98
Number of pages8
JournalCognitive Neuroscience
Issue number2
Early online date14 Mar 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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