How the effects of actions become our own

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Science Advances  01 Jul 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 27, eaay8301
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay8301


Every day, we do things that cause effects in the outside world with little doubt about who caused what. To some, this sense of agency derives from a post hoc reconstruction of a likely causal relationship between an event and our preceding movements; others propose that the sense of agency originates from prospective comparisons of motor programs and their effects. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we found that the sense of agency is associated with a brain network including the pre–supplementary motor area (SMA) and dorsal parietal cortex. Transcranial magnetic stimulation affected the sense of agency only when delivered over the pre-SMA and specifically when time-locked to action planning, rather than when the physical consequences of the actions appeared. These findings make a prospective theory of the sense of agency more likely.

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