Effects of Emotional Contexts on Cerebello-Thalamo-Cortical Activity during Action Observation

Viridiana Mazzola, Patrik Vuilleumier, Valeria Latorre, Annamaria Petito, Vittorio Gallese, Teresa Popolizio, Giampiero Arciero, Guido Bondolfi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Several studies investigated the neural and functional mechanisms underlying action observation in contexts with objects. However, actions seen in everyday life are often embedded in emotional contexts. The neural systems integrating emotion cues in action observation are still poorly understood. Previous findings suggest that the processing of both action and emotion information recruits motor control areas within the cerebello-thalamo-cortical pathways. It is therefore hard to determine whether social emotional contexts influence action processing via a direct modulation of motor representations coding for the observed action or via the affective state and implicit motor preparedness elicited in observers in response to emotional contexts. Here we designed a novel fMRI task to identify neural networks engaged by the affective appraisal of a grasping action seen in two different emotional contexts, while keeping the action kinematics constant. Results confirmed that observing the same acts of grasping but in different emotional contexts modulated activity in supplementary motor area, ventrolateral thalamus, anterior cerebellum. Moreover, changes in functional connectivity between left supplementary motor area and parahippocampus in different emotional contexts suggested a direct neural pathway through which emotional contexts may drive the neural motor system. Taken together, these findings shed new light on the malleability of motor system as a function of emotional contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere75912
JournalPLoS One
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 26 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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