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Brain. 2014 Jul;137(Pt 7):1971-85. doi: 10.1093/brain/awu111. Epub 2014 Apr 27.

Critical brain regions for tool-related and imitative actions: a componential analysis.

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1 Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute, 50 Township Line Rd, Elkins Park, PA, 19027, USA
1 Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute, 50 Township Line Rd, Elkins Park, PA, 19027, USA.
2 Department of Neurology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 3400 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


Numerous functional neuroimaging studies suggest that widespread bilateral parietal, temporal, and frontal regions are involved in tool-related and pantomimed gesture performance, but the role of these regions in specific aspects of gestural tasks remains unclear. In the largest prospective study of apraxia-related lesions to date, we performed voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping with data from 71 left hemisphere stroke participants to assess the critical neural substrates of three types of actions: gestures produced in response to viewed tools, imitation of tool-specific gestures demonstrated by the examiner, and imitation of meaningless gestures. Thus, two of the three gesture types were tool-related, and two of the three were imitative, enabling pairwise comparisons designed to highlight commonalities and differences. Gestures were scored separately for postural (hand/arm positioning) and kinematic (amplitude/timing) accuracy. Lesioned voxels in the left posterior temporal gyrus were significantly associated with lower scores on the posture component for both of the tool-related gesture tasks. Poor performance on the kinematic component of all three gesture tasks was significantly associated with lesions in left inferior parietal and frontal regions. These data enable us to propose a componential neuroanatomic model of action that delineates the specific components required for different gestural action tasks. Thus, visual posture information and kinematic capacities are differentially critical to the three types of actions studied here: the kinematic aspect is particularly critical for imitation of meaningless movement, capacity for tool-action posture representations are particularly necessary for pantomimed gestures to the sight of tools, and both capacities inform imitation of tool-related movements. These distinctions enable us to advance traditional accounts of apraxia.


action; apraxia; gesture; imitation; tools

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