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ECC: Embodied cognitive control From early evidence to the process model

Currò, T. (2023). ECC: Embodied cognitive control From early evidence to the process model. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London/Sapienza University of Rome)


This thesis reports the empirical studies and the theoretical foundation implemented to investigate whether and how cognitive control is an embodied mechanism. Embodied cognition theories propose that higher-order cognitive functions are grounded in the activity of cerebral systems supporting lower-level sensorimotor interactions between the body and the environment. Specifically, the research project aims to investigate the role of sensorimotor representations evoked by body stimuli in modulating top-down inhibitory functions of motor responses. Six behavioural experiments formed a coherent sequence of hypotheses stemming from the first study's results and allowed further investigation of the phenomenon under study. Using the Go/No-go task, the different studies implemented a variety of stimuli, factors, and experimental designs to progress in understanding the behavioral modulation in inhibitory performance in the presence of body-related information. The first experiment tested the interference of images' bodily content in participants’ inhibitory performance compared to non-body stimuli. The second experiment investigated the previous finding further by testing possible confound factors and the role of somatotopic- and action-related sensorimotor stimulus-response congruency between the observed body part and the effector used to respond. The third experiment tested the role of attention in mediating the previous effects. The fourth experiment aimed to dissociate the influence of body and motor representations by comparing different body parts that evoke body and motor representation to body parts that evoke only body representations. The fifth experiment expanded to the semantic level using body/action-related words instead of images. Finally, the sixth and last experiment included an additional feature of cognitive control, context monitoring. As a whole, the results of my Ph.D. research project show that sensorimotor representations evoked by the perception of body images modulate the performance in a motor inhibition task. The implications of the project challenge both embodied cognition and cognitive control theories. Regarding embodied cognition theories, the role of sensorimotor representations is not limited to basic cognitive functions but expands to higher executive functions through the evidence of the role of sensorimotor representations on higher executive functions as cognitive control. The results also support an alternative view on cognitive control, challenging the classical view of it as an amodal control system and suggesting that it adapts to specific elements and situations. The results of this research project demonstrate the need for more research around the reach of embodied cognition implications and the conceptualization of cognitive control. The latter is a crucial mechanism in everyday functioning and a core element in diagnosing and treating neuropsychological disorders.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Curro thesis 2023_embargo.pdf] Text - Accepted Version
This document is not freely accessible until 31 July 2026 due to copyright restrictions.


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