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Behav Brain Res. 2012 Jul 15;233(1):209-16. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2012.05.009. Epub 2012 May 15.

fMRI-activation during drawing a naturalistic or sketchy portrait.

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Functional Imaging Unit, Center for Diagnostic Radiology and Neuroradiology, University of Greifswald, Greifswald, Germany.


Neural processes for naturalistic drawing might be discerned into object recognition and analysis, attention processes guiding eye hand interaction, encoding of visual features in an allocentric reference frame, a transfer into the motor command and precise motor guidance with tight sensorimotor feedback. Cerebral representations in a real life paradigm during naturalistic drawing have sparsely been investigated. Using a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) paradigm we measured 20 naive subjects during drawing a portrait from a frontal face presented as a photograph. Participants were asked to draw the portrait in either a naturalistic or a sketchy characteristic way. Tracing the contours of the face with a pencil or passive viewing of the face served as control conditions. Compared to passive viewing, naturalistic and sketchy drawing recruited predominantly the dorsal visual pathway, somatosensory and motor areas and bilateral BA 44. The right occipital lobe, middle temporal (MT) and the fusiform face area were increasingly active during drawing compared to passive viewing as well. Compared to tracing with a pencil, both drawing tasks increasingly involved the bilateral precuneus together with the cuneus and right inferior temporal lobe. Overall, our study identified cerebral areas characteristic for previously proposed aspects of drawing: face perception and analysis (fusiform gyrus and higher visual areas), encoding and retrieval of locations in an allocentric reference frame (precuneus), and continuous feedback processes during motor output (parietal sulcus, cerebellar hemisphere).

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