Role of the occipito-temporal theta rhythm in hand visual identification

Quentin Moreau, Eleonora Parrotta, Vanessa Era, Maria Luisa Martelli, Matteo Candidi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neuroimaging and EEG studies have shown that passive observation of the full body and of specific body parts is associated with 1) activity of an occipito-temporal region named the extrastriate body area (EBA), 2) amplitude modulations of a specific posterior event-related potential (ERP) component (N1/N190), and 3) a theta-band (4-7 Hz) synchronization recorded from occipito-temporal electrodes compatible with the location of EBA. To characterize the functional role of the occipito-temporal theta-band increase during the processing of body-part stimuli, we recorded EEG from healthy participants while they were engaged in an identification task (match-to-sample) of images of hands and nonbody control images (leaves). In addition to confirming that occipito-temporal electrodes show a larger N1 for hand images compared with control stimuli, cluster-based analysis revealed an occipito-temporal cluster showing an increased theta power when hands are presented (compared with leaves) and show that this theta increase is higher for identified hands compared with nonidentified ones while not being significantly different between not identified nonhand stimuli. Finally, single trial multivariate pattern analysis revealed that time-frequency modulation in the theta band is a better marker for classifying the identification of hand images than the ERP modulation. The present results support the notion that theta activity over the occipito-temporal cortex is an informative marker of hand visual processing and may reflect the activity of a network coding for stimulus identity.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Hands provide crucial information regarding the identity of others, which is a key information for social processes. We recorded EEG activity of healthy participants during the visual identification of hand images. The combination of univariate and multivariate pattern analysis in time- and time-frequency domain highlights the functional role of theta (4-7 Hz) activity over visual areas during hand identification and emphasizes the robustness of this neuromarker in occipito-temporal visual processing dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-177
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number1
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Nov 13 2019


  • body-part visual perception
  • EEG
  • extrastriate body area
  • lateral occipito-temporal cortex
  • theta

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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