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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Point-light biological motion perception activates human premotor cortex.

  • Author(s): Saygin, Ayse Pinar
  • Wilson, Stephen M
  • Hagler, Donald J
  • Bates, Elizabeth
  • Sereno, Martin I
  • et al.

Motion cues can be surprisingly powerful in defining objects and events. Specifically, a handful of point-lights attached to the joints of a human actor will evoke a vivid percept of action when the body is in motion. The perception of point-light biological motion activates posterior cortical areas of the brain. On the other hand, observation of others' actions is known to also evoke activity in motor and premotor areas in frontal cortex. In the present study, we investigated whether point-light biological motion animations would lead to activity in frontal cortex as well. We performed a human functional magnetic resonance imaging study on a high-field-strength magnet and used a number of methods to increase signal, as well as cortical surface-based analysis methods. Areas that responded selectively to point-light biological motion were found in lateral and inferior temporal cortex and in inferior frontal cortex. The robust responses we observed in frontal areas indicate that these stimuli can also recruit action observation networks, although they are very simplified and characterize actions by motion cues alone. The finding that even point-light animations evoke activity in frontal regions suggests that the motor system of the observer may be recruited to "fill in" these simplified displays.

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