Present address: Sports Expertise Laboratory, Faculty of Human Kinetics, Technical University of Lisbon, Estrada da Costa, 1495-688 Cruz Quebrada, Lisbon, Portugal.
Action anticipation beyond the action observation network: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study in expert basketball players
Article first published online: 29 APR 2012
© 2012 The Authors. European Journal of Neuroscience © 2012 Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and Blackwell Publishing Ltd
European Journal of Neuroscience
Special Issue: Special Feature: Development And Plasticity Of Thalamocortical Systems
Volume 35, Issue 10, pages 1646–1654, May 2012
How to Cite
Abreu, A. M., Macaluso, E., Azevedo, R. T., Cesari, P., Urgesi, C. and Aglioti, S. M. (2012), Action anticipation beyond the action observation network: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study in expert basketball players. European Journal of Neuroscience, 35: 1646–1654. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2012.08104.x
- Issue published online: 20 MAY 2012
- Article first published online: 29 APR 2012
- Received 11 January 2012, revised 27 February 2012, accepted 4 March 2012
- action anticipation;
- motor expertise;
- motor resonance system;
The ability to predict the actions of others is quintessential for effective social interactions, particularly in competitive contexts (e.g. in sport) when knowledge about upcoming movements allows anticipating rather than reacting to opponents. Studies suggest that we predict what others are doing by using our own motor system as an internal forward model and that the fronto-parietal action observation network (AON) is fundamental for this ability. However, multiple-duty cells dealing with action perception and execution have been found in a variety of cortical regions. Here we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to explore, in expert basketball athletes and novices, whether the ability to make early predictions about the fate of sport-specific actions (i.e. free throws) is underpinned by neural regions beyond the classical AON. We found that, although involved in action prediction, the fronto-parietal AON was similarly activated in novices and experts. Importantly, athletes exhibited relatively greater activity in the extrastriate body area during the prediction task, probably due to their expert reading of the observed action kinematics. Moreover, experts exhibited higher activation in the bilateral inferior frontal gyrus and in the right anterior insular cortex when producing errors, suggesting that they might become aware of their own errors. Correct action prediction induced higher posterior insular cortex activity in experts and higher orbito-frontal activity in novices, suggesting that body awareness is important for performance monitoring in experts, whereas novices rely more on higher-order decision-making strategies. This functional reorganization highlights the tight relationship between action anticipation, error awareness and motor expertise leading to body-related processing and differences in decision-making processes.