Motor resonance is defined as the subliminal activation of the motor system while observing actions performed by others. However, resonating with another person's actions is not always an appropriate response: In real life, people do not just imitate but rather respond in a suitable fashion. A growing body of neurophysiologic studies has demonstrated that motor resonance can be overridden by complementary motor responses (such as preparing a precision grip on a small object when seeing an open hand in sign of request). In this study, we investigated the relationship between congruent and incongruent corticospinal activations at the level of multiple effectors. The modulation of motor evoked potentials evoked by single-pulse TMS over the motor cortex was assessed in upper and lower limb muscles of participants observing a soccer player performing a penalty kick straight in their direction. Study results revealed a double dissociation: Seeing the soccer player kicking the ball triggered a motor resonance in the observer's lower limb, whereas the upper limb response afforded by the object was overridden. On the other hand, seeing the ball approaching the observers elicited a complementary motor activation in upper limbs while motor resonance in lower limbs disappeared. Control conditions showing lateral kicks, mimicked kicks, and a ball in penalty area were also included to test the motor coding of object affordances. Results point to a modulation of motor responses in different limbs over the course of action and in function of their relevance in different contexts. We contend that ecologically valid paradigms are now needed to shed light on the motor system functioning in complex forms of interaction.

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