Predicting and memorizing observed action: Differential premotor cortex involvement



Many studies have shown the involvement of the premotor cortex in action observation, recognizing this region as the neural marker of action simulation (i.e., internal modeling on the basis of the observer's own motor repertoire). So far, however, we have remained unaware of how action simulation differs from more general action representation in terms of premotor activation. The present fMRI experiment is the first to demonstrate how premotor structures contribute to action simulation as opposed to other action-related cognitive tasks, such as maintaining action representations. Using similar stimuli, a prediction condition requiring internal simulation of transiently occluded actions was compared to three different action-related control tasks differing solely in task instructions. Results showed right pre-SMA activation as a correlate of maintaining action representations in general. Moreover, the prediction condition was most efficient in activating the left pre-SMA and left PMd. These results suggest that the conjoint activation of the pre-SMA and PMd reflects a core neural driver of action simulation. Hum Brain Mapp, 2011. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.