Similar Cerebral Motor Plans for Real and Virtual Actions

Chiara Bozzacchi, Maria Assunta Giusti, Sabrina Pitzalis, Donatella Spinelli, Francesco Di Russo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A simple movement, such as pressing a button, can acquire different meanings by producing different consequences, such as starting an elevator or switching a TV channel. We evaluated whether the brain activity preceding a simple action is modulated by the expected consequences of the action itself. To further this aim, the motor-related cortical potentials were compared during two key-press actions that were identical from the kinematics point of view but different in both meaning and consequences. In one case (virtual grasp), the key-press started a video clip showing a hand moving toward a cup and grasping it; in the other case, the key-press did not produce any consequence (key-press). A third condition (real grasp) was also compared, in which subjects actually grasped the cup, producing the same action presented in the video clip. Data were collected from fifteen subjects. The results showed that motor preparation for virtual grasp (starting 3 s before the movement onset) was different from that of the key-press and similar to the real grasp preparation-as if subjects had to grasp the cup in person. In particular, both virtual and real grasp presented a posterior parietal negativity preceding activity in motor and pre-motor areas. In summary, this finding supports the hypothesis that motor preparation is affected by the meaning of the action, even when the action is only virtual.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere47783
JournalPLoS One
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 24 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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