August 2023
Volume 23, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2023
The role of agentive and physical forces in the neural representation of motion events
Author Affiliations
  • Seda Akbiyik
    Harvard University
  • Oliver Sussman
    Harvard University
  • Moritz Wurm
    Centre for Mind/Brain Sciences University of Trento
  • Alfonso Caramazza
    Harvard University
    Centre for Mind/Brain Sciences University of Trento
Journal of Vision August 2023, Vol.23, 6013. doi:
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      Seda Akbiyik, Oliver Sussman, Moritz Wurm, Alfonso Caramazza; The role of agentive and physical forces in the neural representation of motion events. Journal of Vision 2023;23(9):6013.

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

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Interpreting dynamic events that involve humans and objects is essential for our daily lives. How does the brain represent information about dynamic events? Neural correlates of dynamic event information have mostly been assessed in relation to human actions, highlighting a set of frontoparietal and posterior temporal regions - the so-called action observation network. However, human actions constitute only a small portion of the events around us. To better understand the complexity of the neural mechanisms involved in event recognition, human actions and events involving inanimate entities should be studied in an integrated manner. In this study, we investigated the neural activity patterns associated with observing animated actions of agents (e.g., an agent hits a chair) in relation to similar object events that were either initiated by agents (e.g., a visible agent makes an object hit a chair) or shaped purely by the physics of a scene (e.g., gravity makes an object fall down a hill and hit a chair). Using fMRI-based MVPA (N = 25), this design allowed testing where in the brain the neural activity patterns associated with motion events change as a function of, or are invariant to, agentive versus physical causes. Cross-decoding revealed a shared neural representation of agent actions and object events throughout the action observation network regardless of whether the movements of the object were initiated by a visible agent or determined purely by physical forces. On the other hand, the right lateral occipitotemporal cortex showed higher sensitivity to cues related to animacy and agency, while the left dorsal premotor cortex was more sensitive to information about physics-laden object events. Overall, our findings shed light on the functional properties of brain regions classically associated with action recognition and highlight their broader role in encoding the kinematics of events.


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