Brain activity during reciprocal social interaction investigated using conversational robots as control condition


  • Rauchbauer Birgit
  • Nazarian Bruno
  • Bourhis Morgane
  • Ochs Magalie
  • Prevot Laurent
  • Chaminade Thierry

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We present a novel functional magnetic resonance imaging paradigm for second-person neuroscience. The paradigm compares a human social interaction (human–human interaction, HHI) to an interaction with a conversational robot (human–robot interaction, HRI). The social interaction consists of 1 min blocks of live bidirectional discussion between the scanned participant and the human or robot agent. A final sample of 21 participants is included in the corpus comprising physiological (blood oxygen level-dependent, respiration and peripheral blood flow) and behavioural (recorded speech from all interlocutors, eye tracking from the scanned participant, face recording of the human and robot agents) data. Here, we present the first analysis of this corpus, contrasting neural activity between HHI and HRI. We hypothesized that independently of differences in behaviour between interactions with the human and robot agent, neural markers of mentalizing (temporoparietal junction (TPJ) and medial prefrontal cortex) and social motivation (hypothalamus and amygdala) would only be active in HHI. Results confirmed significantly increased response associated with HHI in the TPJ, hypothalamus and amygdala, but not in the medial prefrontal cortex. Future analysis of this corpus will include fine-grained characterization of verbal and non-verbal behaviours recorded during the interaction to investigate their neural correlates.

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