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Neuroimage. 2013 Apr 1;69:138-45. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.12.028. Epub 2012 Dec 23.

Experience with an amputee modulates one's own sensorimotor response during action observation.

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  • 1Brain and Creativity Institute, University of Southern California, 3620A McClintock Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90089-2921, United States. sliew@usc.edu

Abstract

Observing actions performed by others engages one's own sensorimotor regions, typically with greater activity for actions within one's own motor abilities or for which one has prior experience. However, it is unclear how experience modulates the neural response during the observation of impossible actions, beyond one's own abilities. Using fMRI, we scanned typically-developed participants as they observed actions performed by a novel biological effector (the residual limb of a woman born without arms) and a familiar biological effector (a hand). Participants initially demonstrated greater activity in the bilateral inferior and superior parietal cortices when observing actions made by the residual limb compared to the hand, with more empathic participants activating the right inferior parietal lobule, corresponding to the posterior component of the action observation network, more strongly. Activity in the parietal regions may indicate matching the kinematics of a novel effector to one's own existing sensorimotor system, a process that may be more active in more empathic individuals. Participants then received extended visual exposure to each effector, after which they showed little difference between activation in response to residual limb compared to hand actions, only in the right superior parietal lobule. This suggests that visual experience may attenuate the difference between how residual limb and hand actions are represented using one's own body representations, allowing us to flexibly map physically different others onto our own body representations.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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