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Neuropsychologia. 2012 Dec;50(14):3207-17. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.09.028. Epub 2012 Sep 26.

Physical experience leads to enhanced object perception in parietal cortex: insights from knot tying.

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Wales Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience, School of Psychology, Bangor University, Bangor, Wales LL57 2AS, UK.


What does it mean to "know" what an object is? Viewing objects from different categories (e.g., tools vs. animals) engages distinct brain regions, but it is unclear whether these differences reflect object categories themselves or the tendency to interact differently with objects from different categories (grasping tools, not animals). Here we test how the brain constructs representations of objects that one learns to name or physically manipulate. Participants learned to name or tie different knots and brain activity was measured whilst performing a perceptual discrimination task with these knots before and after training. Activation in anterior intraparietal sulcus, a region involved in object manipulation, was specifically engaged when participants viewed knots they learned to tie. This suggests that object knowledge is linked to sensorimotor experience and its associated neural systems for object manipulation. Findings are consistent with a theory of embodiment in which there can be clear overlap in brain systems that support conceptual knowledge and control of object manipulation.

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