Parallel and Distributed Neural Models of the Ideomotor Principle: An Investigation of Imitative Cortical Pathways
Humans’ capacity to imitate has been extensively investigated through a wide-range of behavioral and developmental studies. Yet, despite the huge amount of phenomenological evidence gathered, we are still unable to relate this behavioral data to any specific neural substrate. In this paper, we investigate how principles from psychology can be the result of neural computations and therefore attempt to bridge the gap between monkey neurophysiology and human behavioral data, and hence between these two complementary disciplines. Specifically, we address the principle of ideomotor compatibility, by which ‘observing the movements of others influences the quality of one’s own performance’ and develop two neural models which account for a set of related behavioral studies [Brass, M., Bekkering, H., Wohlschla¨ger, A., & Prinz, W. (2000). Compatibility between observed and executed finger movements: comparing symbolic, spatial and imitative cues. Brain and Cognition 44, 124–143]. We show that the ideomotor effect could be the result of two distinct cognitive pathways, which can be modeled by means of biologically plausible neural architectures. Furthermore, we propose a novel behavioral experiment to confirm or refute either of the two model pathways.