Spontaneous thought and microstate activity modulation by social imitation

Miralena I. Tomescu, Claudiu C. Papasteri, Alexandra Sofonea, Romina Boldasu, Valeria Kebets, Constantin A.D. Pistol, Catalina Poalelungi, Vlad Benescu, Ioana R. Podina, Catalin I. Nedelcea, Alexandru I. Berceanu, Ioana Carcea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The human mind wanders spontaneously and frequently, revisiting the past and imagining the future of self and of others. External and internal factors can influence wandering spontaneous thoughts, whose content predicts subsequent emotional states. We propose that social imitation, an action that increases well-being and closeness by poorly understood mechanisms, impacts behavioural states in part by modulating post-imitation mind-wandering. In 43 young subjects, we find that imitating the arm movements of an actor alters the dynamics and the content of subsequent resting-state spontaneous thoughts. Imitation-sensitive features of spontaneous thoughts correlate with behavioural states and personality traits. EEG microstate analysis reveals that global patterns of correlated neuronal activity predict imitation-induced changes in spontaneous thoughts. Exploratory analyses indicate a possible modulatory effect of social imitation via the endogenous release of oxytocin. Thus, social imitation can induce selective modulations of ongoing activity in specific neural networks to change spontaneous thought patterns as a function of personality traits, and to ultimately orchestrate behavioural states.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number118878
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


  • EEG microstates
  • Oxytocin
  • Social imitation
  • Spontaneous thoughts


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