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Curr Biol. 2019 Apr 1;29(7):1218-1225.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.02.027. Epub 2019 Mar 14.

Neurons Modulated by Action Execution and Observation in the Macaque Medial Parietal Cortex.

Author information

1
University of Bologna, Department of Biomedical and Neuromotor Sciences, Piazza di Porta San Donato 2, 40126 Bologna, Italy.
2
University of Bologna, Department of Biomedical and Neuromotor Sciences, Piazza di Porta San Donato 2, 40126 Bologna, Italy. Electronic address: claudio.galletti@unibo.it.

Abstract

The observation of an action evokes discharges in a rich network of cortical areas [1-14]. In the present study, we have evaluated the effect of grasp execution and of the observation of others' grasping on the activity of neurons in the medial parietal area V6A, an area of the reach-to-grasp network never explored to date in this regard. Although V6A neurons are typically active during one's own grasping execution but not while one observes another's grasping, a minority of neurons showed mirror properties, active both when monkeys performed the task and when they observed it being performed by the experimenter. Recent studies have shown that the discharge of mirror neurons may vary from congruent to noncongruent [7, 10, 15-17], but most mirror neurons show a clear relation between the visual action they respond to and the motor response they code [10], thus matching the sensory description of an observed action with its corresponding internal motor representation. In all V6A putative mirror neurons, instead, neural representations during execution and observation were highly dissimilar, discounting the possibility that V6A specifically encodes the grip type performed by another agent. Notably, we have found that in these neurons, the neural representation of an object changed according to whether grasping was allowed or performed and whether the object was the target of another agent's grasping. In other words, rather than code another agent's observed action, V6A neurons appear to primarily encode the relevance, in the grasping context, of the target object.

KEYWORDS:

area V6A; mirror neurons; monkey; object encoding; posterior parietal cortex; self-action encoding; single-cell recordings

PMID:
30880012
DOI:
10.1016/j.cub.2019.02.027

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