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J Neurosci. 2013 Sep 25;33(39):15442-53. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5868-12.2013.

Distinct regions of right temporal cortex are associated with biological and human-agent motion: functional magnetic resonance imaging and neuropsychological evidence.

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State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning and IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China, Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, and Center of Mind/Brain Sciences (CIMeC), University of Trento, Rovereto (TN) 38068, Italy.


In human lateral temporal cortex, some regions show specific sensitivity to human motion. Here we examine whether such effects reflect a general biological-nonbiological organizational principle or a process specific to human-agent processing by comparing processing of human, animal, and tool motion in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiment with healthy participants and a voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping (VLSM) study of patients with brain damage (77 stroke patients). The fMRI experiment revealed that in the lateral temporal cortex, the posterior superior temporal sulcus shows a preference for human and animal motion, whereas the middle part of the right superior temporal sulcus/gyrus (mSTS/STG) shows a preference for human and functional tool motion. VLSM analyses also revealed that damage to this right mSTS/STG region led to more severe impairment in the recognition of human and functional tool motion relative to animal motion, indicating the causal role of this brain area in human-agent motion processing. The findings for the right mSTS/STG cannot be reduced to a preference for articulated motion or processing of social variables since neither factor is involved in functional tool motion recognition. We conclude that a unidimensional biological-nonbiological distinction cannot fully explain the visual motion effects in lateral temporal cortex. Instead, the results suggest the existence of distinct components in right posterior temporal cortex and mSTS/STG that are associated, respectively, with biological motion and human-agent motion processing.

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