Action observation activates premotor and parietal areas in a somatotopic mannen: An FMRI study

G. Buccino, F. Binkofski, G. R. Fink, L. Fadiga, L. Fogassi, V. Gallese, R. J. Seitz, K. Zilles, G. Rizzolatti, H. J. Freund

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to localize brain areas that were active during the observation of actions made by another individual. Object-and non-object-related actions made with different effectors (mouth, hand and foot) were presented. Observation of both object-and non-object-related actions determined a somatotopically organized activation of premotor cortex. The somatotopic pattern was similar to that of the classical motor cortex homunculus. During the observation of object-related actions, an activation, also somatotopically organized, was additionally found in the posterior parietal lobe. Thus, when individuals observe an action, an internal replica of that action is automatically generated in their premotor cortex. In the case of object-related actions, a further object-related analysis is performed in the parietal lobe, as if the subjects were indeed using those objects. These results bring the previous concept of an action observation/execution matching system (mirror system) into a broader perspective: this system is not restricted to the ventral premotor cortex, but involves several somatotopically organized motor circuits.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial Neuroscience: Key Readings
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9780203496190
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2013


  • Action observation
  • Humans
  • Mirror system
  • Parietal lobe
  • Premotor cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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