Motor interactions require observing and monitoring a partner's performance as the interaction unfolds. Studies in monkeys suggest that this form of social monitoring might be mediated by the activity of the ventral premotor cortex (vPMc), a critical brain region in action observation and motor planning. Our previous fMRI studies in humans showed that the left vPMc is indeed recruited during social monitoring, but its causal role is unexplored. In three experiments, we applied online anodal or cathodal transcranial direct current stimulation over the left lateral frontal cortex during a music-like interactive task to test the hypothesis that neuromodulation of the left vPMc affects participants' performance when a partner violates the agent's expectations. Participants played short musical sequences together with a virtual partner by playing one note each in turn-taking. In 50% of the trials, the partner violated the participant's expectations by generating the correct note through an unexpected movement. During sham stimulation, the partner's unexpected behavior led to a slowdown in the participant's performance (observation-induced posterror slowing). A significant interaction with the stimulation type showed that cathodal and anodal transcranial direct current stimulation induced modulation of the observation-induced posterror slowing in opposite directions by reducing or enhancing it, respectively. Cathodal stimulation significantly reduced the effect compared to sham stimulation. No effect of neuromodulation was found when the partner behaved as expected or when the observed violation occurred within a context that was perceptually matched but noninteractive in nature. These results provide evidence for the critical causal role that the left vPMc might play in social monitoring during motor interactions, possibly through the interplay with other brain regions in the posterior medial frontal cortex.

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