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J Neurosci. 2014 Jan 8;34(2):574-85. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4032-13.2014.

Distinct neural mechanisms for body form and body motion discriminations.

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Center for Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems@UniTn, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, 38068 Rovereto, Italy, Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, University of Trento, 38068 Rovereto, Italy, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Center for Visual Science, and Department of Ophthalmology, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York 14627, and Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215.


Actions can be understood based on form cues (e.g., static body posture) as well as motion cues (e.g., gait patterns). A fundamental debate centers on the question of whether the functional and neural mechanisms processing these two types of cues are dissociable. Here, using fMRI, psychophysics, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), all within the same human participants, we show that mechanisms underlying body form and body motion processing are functionally and neurally distinct. Multivoxel fMRI activity patterns in the extrastriate body area (EBA), but not in the posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS), carried cue invariant information about the body form of an acting human. Conversely, multivoxel patterns in pSTS, but not in EBA, carried information about the body motion of the same actor. In a psychophysical experiment, we selectively impaired body form and body motion discriminations by manipulating different visual cues: misaligning the ellipses that made up a dynamic walker stimulus selectively disrupted body form discriminations, while varying the presentation duration of the walker selectively affected body motion discriminations. Finally, a TMS experiment revealed causal evidence for a double-dissociation between neural mechanisms underlying body form and body motion discriminations: TMS over EBA selectively disrupted body form discrimination, whereas TMS over pSTS selectively disrupted body motion discrimination. Together, these findings reveal complementing but dissociable functions of EBA and pSTS during action perception. They provide constraints for theoretical and computational models of action perception by showing that action perception involves at least two parallel pathways that separately contribute to the understanding of others' behavior.


biological motion; extrastriate cortex; form vs motion; functional imaging; transcranial magnetic imaging; visual processing

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