The perceptual and cognitive roles of the motor system
- Author(s): Gordon, Chelsea Leigh
- Advisor(s): Balasubramaniam, Ramesh
- et al.
The motor system in the brain is crucial in allowing us to successfully move around
in our environment, interact with people and objects, and execute finely controlled motor
commands. While most of the early neuroscience research on these regions tends to focus
on these “main” functions, over the last few decades evidence has been surfacing that
points to a more broadly integrated role for the motor system. Many recent findings
suggest that it is also of importance in many other aspects of human cognition, from
language and thought to social cognition and, as I discuss in depth in the following
sections, many perceptual processes. In the following chapters, I outline and compare
existing prediction-based and simulation-based theories for motor system involvement in
perception. I also describe experiments I completed investigating motor system
involvement in written language perception, music perception, and action observation.
Furthermore, I discuss how these processes relate to conceptual learning and recall. In
summary, a vast literature points to the motor system proper not being a neural network
that is only good for controlling and planning our actions. As we develop the vocabulary
of the field to use terms like “action-perception loops” and discuss these processes as less
separable than previously considered, perhaps we should also reconsider the term “motor
system” to reflect its diverse roles in sensorimotor prediction.