Neuroimaging studies on action observation suggest that context plays a key role in coding high-level components of motor behavior, including the short-term and the end-goal of an action. However, little is known about the possible role of context in shaping lower-levels of action processing such as reading action kinematics and simulating muscular activity. Here, we combined single-pulse TMS and motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) recording to explore whether top-down contextual information is capable of modulating low-level motor representations. We recorded MEPs from FDI and FCR muscles while participants watched videos about everyday actions embedded in congruent, incongruent or ambiguous contexts. Videos were interrupted before action ending, and participants were requested to predict the course of the observed action. A contextual modulation of corticospinal excitability was observed only for the FDI muscle, which is specifically involved in the execution of reaching-to-grasping movements, and whose corticospinal pathway is influenced by the observation of the very same movements. This modulation was reflected in a selective decrease of corticospinal excitability during the observation of actions embedded in incongruent as compared to congruent and ambiguous contexts. These findings indicate that motor resonance is not an entirely automatic process, but it can be modulated by high-level contextual representations.

Contextual modulation of motor resonance during the observation of everyday actions

URGESI, Cosimo
2016-01-01

Abstract

Neuroimaging studies on action observation suggest that context plays a key role in coding high-level components of motor behavior, including the short-term and the end-goal of an action. However, little is known about the possible role of context in shaping lower-levels of action processing such as reading action kinematics and simulating muscular activity. Here, we combined single-pulse TMS and motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) recording to explore whether top-down contextual information is capable of modulating low-level motor representations. We recorded MEPs from FDI and FCR muscles while participants watched videos about everyday actions embedded in congruent, incongruent or ambiguous contexts. Videos were interrupted before action ending, and participants were requested to predict the course of the observed action. A contextual modulation of corticospinal excitability was observed only for the FDI muscle, which is specifically involved in the execution of reaching-to-grasping movements, and whose corticospinal pathway is influenced by the observation of the very same movements. This modulation was reflected in a selective decrease of corticospinal excitability during the observation of actions embedded in incongruent as compared to congruent and ambiguous contexts. These findings indicate that motor resonance is not an entirely automatic process, but it can be modulated by high-level contextual representations.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11390/1093992
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