Compensatory plasticity in the action observation network: Virtual lesions of STS enhance anticipatory simulation of seen actions

Alessio Avenanti, Laura Annella, Matteo Candidi, Cosimo Urgesi, Salvatore M. Aglioti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Observation of snapshots depicting ongoing motor acts increases corticospinal motor excitability. Such motor facilitation indexes the anticipatory simulation of observed (implied) actions and likely reflects computations occurring in the parietofrontal nodes of a cortical network subserving action perception (action observation network, AON). However, direct evidence for the active role of AON in simulating the future of seen actions is lacking. Using a perturb-and-measure transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) approach, we show that off-line TMS disruption of regions within (inferior frontal cortex, IFC) and upstream (superior temporal sulcus, STS) the parietofrontal AON transiently abolishes and enhances the motor facilitation to observed implied actions, respectively. Our findings highlight the critical role of IFC in anticipatory motor simulation. More importantly, they show that disruption of STS calls into play compensatory motor simulation activity, fundamental for counteracting the noisy visual processing induced by TMS. Thus, short-term plastic changes in the AON allow motor simulation to deal with any gap or ambiguity of ever-changing perceptual worlds. These findings support the active, compensatory, and predictive role of frontoparietal nodes of the AON in the perception and anticipatory simulation of implied actions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)570-580
Number of pages11
JournalCerebral Cortex
Volume23
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Keywords

  • action prediction and simulation
  • functional connectivity
  • plasticity
  • superior temporal sulcus
  • transcranial magnetic stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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