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Agency and Joint Attention$
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Janet Metcalfe and Herbert S. Terrace

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199988341

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199988341.001.0001

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Cognition in Action

Cognition in Action

A New Look at the Cortical Motor System

(p.178) 10 Cognition in Action
Agency and Joint Attention

Vittorio Gallese

Corrado Sinigaglia

Oxford University Press

A series of empirical results almost forces us to abandon our reluctance to deal with the intentional aspects of action, at least at the basic level. Neurophysiological evidence shows that the cortical motor system in nonhuman primates and humans is organized in terms of motor goals and motor intentions rather than mere movements. In this chapter, the authors show how these cognitive functions of the cortical motor system have been assessed by discussing neuroscientific evidence collected during the last two decades both in nonhuman primates and humans. There are five sections to this chapter. The first section addresses the topic of whether and to what extent intentional aspects of motor behavior are encoded in the cortical motor system. The second section investigates the role of motor goal encoding in perceiving and acting upon three-dimensional (3D) objects. The third section highlights the tight relationship between action and space representation. The fourth section deals with the primary ways of making sense of others’ motor behavior. The chapter concludes that the intentional features of actions, at least at a basic level, can only be fully accounted for by the cognitive functions of the cortical motor system. From this definition of intentional action follows a unified neurophysiological explanatory frame for many aspects of our connected relation with the world.

Keywords:   neurophysiology, cortical motor system, intention, perception, 3D objects, motor behavior

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