June 2006
Volume 6, Issue 6
Free
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   June 2006
Attentional modulation of neural responses to action observation: Implications for models of the human ‘mirror’ system
Author Affiliations
  • Trevor Chong
    Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia
  • Mark A. Williams
    Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia, and McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139
  • Ross Cunnington
    Neuroimaging and Neuroinformatics, Howard Florey Institute, Victoria 3010, Australia
  • Jason B. Mattingley
    Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia
Journal of Vision June 2006, Vol.6, 400. doi:10.1167/6.6.400
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      Trevor Chong, Mark A. Williams, Ross Cunnington, Jason B. Mattingley; Attentional modulation of neural responses to action observation: Implications for models of the human ‘mirror’ system. Journal of Vision 2006;6(6):400. doi: 10.1167/6.6.400.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Abstract

Mechanisms underlying human action recognition are mediated by a network of cortical areas located within the premotor cortex, inferior parietal lobe and superior temporal sulcus. Current models suggest that activity within these regions arises relatively automatically during passive observation of meaningful actions, without the need for top-down control. Here we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to determine whether cortical activity associated with action observation is modulated by the strategic allocation of selective attention. Normal observers viewed brief movie clips of reach-to-grasp actions while performing a visual discrimination task at the fovea. The attentional demands of the central task were varied systematically to yield ‘low’ and ‘high’ load conditions, and the efficacy of these manipulations was verified behaviourally prior to scanning. Prior to the experimental runs, localiser scans were acquired to define functional areas involved in action observation. These areas were then used as regions-of-interest in subsequent analyses of the effects of the attentional task on neural responses to action observation. Our results suggest that cortical areas involved in action observation are significantly modulated by attentional load. Thus, although the areas that encode meaningful actions can be engaged relatively automatically, these regions are also influenced by the strategic allocation of selective attention. Our findings have important implications for recent attempts to link the human action-observation system to response properties of ‘mirror neurons’ in monkeys.

Chong, T. Williams, M. A. Cunnington, R. Mattingley, J. B. (2006). Attentional modulation of neural responses to action observation: Implications for models of the human ‘mirror’ system [Abstract]. Journal of Vision, 6(6):400, 400a, http://journalofvision.org/6/6/400/, doi:10.1167/6.6.400. [CrossRef]
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