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Exp Brain Res. 2001 Sep;140(2):241-4.

Experience-dependent modulation of motor corticospinal excitability during action observation.

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Ahmanson Lovelace Brain Mapping Center, Neuropsychiatric Institute, UCLA School of Medicine, 660 Charles E. Young Drive South, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


The primate premotor cortex is endowed with an "action observation/execution matching system", that is, the same premotor neurons discharge when actions are performed and when actions are observed. Hence, this system predicts a strong visual input to the motor system. Whether this input is dependent on visual experience or not has not been previously investigated. To address this issue we compared corticospinal excitability while subjects viewed frequently observed and less frequently observed hand actions of others and of themselves. Motor corticospinal excitability was larger when the action orientations were as they are frequently observed (Self-away, subject's own hand facing out from the subject, or Other-toward, an unknown hand facing toward the subject) compared with less frequently observed actions (Self-toward, subject's own hand facing "toward" the subject, or Other-away, an unknown hand facing out from the subject). This finding suggests that the modulation of motor corticospinal excitability during action observation and hence the "action observation/execution matching system" is largely dependent upon visual experience.

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