Observed manipulation enhances left fronto-parietal activations in the processing of unfamiliar tools

Norma Naima Rüther, Marco Tettamanti, Stefano F. Cappa, Christian Bellebaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Tools represent a special class of objects, as functional details of tools can afford certain actions. In addition, information gained via prior experience with tools can be accessed on a semantic level, providing a basis for meaningful object interactions. Conceptual representations of tools also encompass knowledge about tool manipulation which can be acquired via direct (active manipulation) or indirect (observation of others manipulating objects) motor experience. The present study aimed to explore the impact of observation of manipulation on the neural processing of previously unfamiliar, manipulable objects. Brain activity was assessed by means of functional magnetic resonance imaging while participants accomplished a visual matching task involving pictures of the novel objects before and after they received object-related training. Three training session in which subjects observed an experimenter manipulating one set of objects and visually explored another set of objects were used to make subjects familiar with the tools and to allow the formation of new tool representations. A control object set was not part of the training. Training-related brain activation increases were found for observed manipulation objects compared to not trained objects in a left-hemispheric network consisting of inferior frontal gyrus (iFG) pars opercularis and triangularis and supramarginal/angular gyrus. This illustrates that direct manipulation experience is not required to elicit tool-associated activation changes in the action system. While the iFG activation might indicate a close relationship between the areas involved in tool representation and those involved in observational knowledge acquisition, the parietal activation is discussed in terms of non-semantic effects of object affordances and handtool spatial relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere99401
JournalPLoS One
Volume9
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 9 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Observed manipulation enhances left fronto-parietal activations in the processing of unfamiliar tools'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this