Dissociable substrates for body motion and physical experience in the human action observation network

Authors

  • Emily S. Cross,

    1. School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK
    2. Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, 03755, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
    • *

      Present address: Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Science, Stephanstrasse la, 04103 Leipzig, Germany

  • Antonia F. de C. Hamilton,

    1. School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • David J. M. Kraemer,

    1. Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, 03755, USA
    2. Department of Psychology, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19104, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • William M. Kelley,

    1. Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, 03755, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Scott T. Grafton

    1. Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, California, 93106, USA
    Search for more papers by this author

Dr E. S. Cross, at *present address below.
E-mail: cross@cbs.mpg.de

Abstract

Observation of human actions recruits a well-defined network of brain regions, yet the purpose of this action observation network (AON) remains under debate. Some authors contend that this network has developed to respond specifically to observation of human actions. Conversely, others suggest that this network responds in a similar manner to actions prompted by human and non-human cues, and that one’s familiarity with the action is the critical factor that drives this network. Previous studies investigating human and non-human action cues often confound novelty and stimulus form. Here, we used a dance-learning paradigm to assess AON activity during observation of trained and untrained dance cues where a human model was present or absent. Results show that individual components of the AON respond differently to the human form and to dance training. The bilateral superior temporal cortex responds preferentially to videos with a human present, regardless of training experience. Conversely, the right ventral premotor cortex responds more strongly when observing sequences that had been trained, regardless of the presence of a human. Our findings suggest that the AON comprises separate and dissociable components for motor planning and observing other people’s actions.

Ancillary