Acting together with others is a fundamental human ability. This raises the possibility that we take others' actions into account whenever somebody acts around us. Event-related fMRI was used to identify brain regions responsive to changes in cognitive processing when one and the same go-nogo task is performed alone or together with a co-actor performing a complementary task. Reaction times showed that participants integrated the potential action of their co-actor in their own action planning. Increased activation in ventral premotor cortex was found when participants acted upon stimuli referring to their own action alternative, but only when their partner performed a complementary task. This suggests that knowing about the potential actions of a partner increases the relevance of stimuli referring to oneself. Acting in the presence of a co-actor was also associated with increased orbitofrontal activation, indicating that participants monitored their performance more closely to make sure it really was their turn. These results suggest that our default mode is to interact with others.
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