The Influence of Context on the Perception of Action: An fMRI Study

Lydia Hayward (2010). The Influence of Context on the Perception of Action: An fMRI Study Honours Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

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Author Lydia Hayward
Thesis Title The Influence of Context on the Perception of Action: An fMRI Study
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010
Thesis type Honours Thesis
Supervisor Molenberghs, Pascal
Total pages 65
Abstract/Summary Perceiving and understanding the actions of others is an important part of everyday social life. Previous research investigating primate and human brain functioning has provided evidence for a parieto-frontal cortical mirror system that is postulated to play a role in action understanding and imitation. The current study aimed to investigate the role of the mirror system during the observation of actions in different contexts. Twenty healthy participants’ brain activity was measured using fMRI during the observation of hand actions in different conditions – imitate, understand, observe, respond, and passive observation. Across conditions, common activation was found in inferior parietal and ventral premotor cortex, regions previously associated with a mirror system in humans. Pairwise contrasts revealed differences between ‘imitate’ and all other conditions. Additionally, the ‘respond’ condition showed more activation than ‘passive observation’. Crucially we found no significant differences between the ‘understand’, ‘observe’, and ‘respond’ conditions. Although our results confirm the activation of a parieto-frontal mirror network during passive observation of actions, they question the crucial role of a human mirror system in action understanding.

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Created: Wed, 06 Apr 2011, 12:08:08 EST by Lucy O'Brien on behalf of School of Psychology