Primary somatosensory contribution to action observation brain activity-combining fMRI and cTBS

Nikola Valchev, V. Gazzola, Alessio Avenanti, Christian Keysers

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)
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Traditionally the mirror neuron system (MNS) only includes premotor and posterior parietal cortices. However, somatosensory cortices, BA1/2 in particular, are also activated during action execution and observation. Here, we examine whether BA1/2 and the parietofrontal MNS integrate information by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)-guided continuous theta-burst stimulation (cTBS) to perturb BA1/2. Measuring brain activity using fMRI while participants are under the influence of cTBS shows local cTBS effects in BA1/2 varied, with some participants showing decreases and others increases in the BOLD response to viewing actionsvscontrol stimuli. We show how measuring cTBS effects using fMRI can harness this variance using a whole-brain regression. This analysis identifies brain regions exchanging action-specific information with BA1/2 by mapping voxels away from the coil with cTBS-induced, action-observation-specific BOLD contrast changes that mirror those under the coil. This reveals BA1/2 exchanges action-specific information with premotor, posterior parietal and temporal nodes of the MNS during action observation. Although anatomical connections between BA1/2 and these regions are well known, this is the first demonstration that these connections carry action-specific signals during observation and hence, that BA1/2 plays a causal role in the human MNS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1205-1217
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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