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Georgina Amos, Philippe Chouinard; Mirror neuron system activation differs in experienced golfers compared to controls watching videos of golf compared to novel sports depending on conceptual versus motor familiarity.. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):429. doi: 10.1167/18.10.429.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Previous research demonstrates that mirror neuron areas respond to visual stimuli in a way that reflects an individual's expertise in a given area (Calvo-Merino et al., 2005, Cerebral Cortex, 15, 1243-1249). For example, expert ballet dancers show greater mirror neuron system activation whilst watching ballet compared to capoeira (a martial arts dance). Both forms of dance share similar movements. These results indicate a greater role for conceptual familiarity over movement familiarity in the mirror neuron system. Our fMRI study aims to further understand the roles of conceptual and movement familiarity by introducing a novel control condition whereby concept and movement can be more precisely disentangled. We examined responsiveness of the mirror neuron system in experienced golfers (N = 12), who watched videos of their sport (golf), a novel sport with similar movements (ice hockey), and a novel sport with different movements (ballet) and compared this activation to that of non-golfers (N = 12). Data were analysed using extracted contrast values from the left ventral premotor area as defined by an independent functional localiser. ANOVA demonstrated a main effect for group in the left ventral premotor area [F(1, 22) = 5.30; p = .03] with higher BOLD activation for golfers than non-golfers. The interaction was also significant [F(2, 44) = 5.87; p = .005]. Golfers demonstrated greater BOLD activation from watching golf compared to both ice hockey (p < .05) and ballet (p < .001), and also from hockey compared to ballet (p < .01). No significant differences in activation were detected across video conditions in non-golfers. In conclusion, our results support those of Calvo-Merino et al. (2005) in that mirror neuron areas seem to respond to conceptual familiarity of a dynamic visual stimulus. However, our research also suggests movement familiarity has an important compounding effect with conceptual familiarity in the mirror neuron system.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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