Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

Soc Neurosci. 2008;3(3-4):388-400. doi: 10.1080/17470910701676269

Virtual lesion of ventral premotor cortex impairs visual perception of biomechanically possible but not impossible actions

Single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) studies show that action observation facilitates the onlooker's cortico-spinal system supporting the notion of motor mirroring. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) over ventral premotor cortex (vPMc) impairs visual discrimination of body actions. Although studies suggest that the action observation-execution matching system may map only actions that belong to the observer's motor repertoire, we demonstrated comparable motor and premotor facilitation during observation of biomechanically possible as well as impossible actions. It has also been shown that seeing impossible body movements activates the extrastriate body area (EBA). Using event-related rTMS, we sought to determine whether vPMc and EBA are actively involved in the visual discrimination of actions performed through biomechanically possible or impossible kinematics and of their biomechanical plausibility. Stimulation of vPMc impaired discrimination of possible actions while leaving intact the discrimination of biomechanically impossible actions and of biomechanical plausibility. No effect of EBA rTMS on any type of action processing was found. Thus, vPMc is crucial for discrimination of the goal of actions that can be actually performed suggesting that this area is involved in the visual processing of goal-directed actions.

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