The left ventral premotor cortex is involved in hand shaping for intransitive gestures: evidence from a two-person imitation experiment

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Description: The ventral premotor cortex (PMv) is involved in grasping and object manipulation, whilst the dorsal premotor cortex (PMd) has been suggested to play a role in reaching and action selection. These areas have also been associated with action imitation, but their relative roles in different types of action imitation are unclear. We examined the role of the left PMv and PMd in meaningful and meaningless action imitation by using repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). Participants imitated meaningful and meaningless actions performed by a confederate actor whilst both individuals were motion-tracked. rTMS was applied over the left PMv, left PMd, or a vertex control site during action observation or imitation. Digit velocity was significantly greater following stimulation over the PMv during imitation compared to stimulation over the PMv during observation, regardless of action meaning. Similar effects were not observed over the PMd or vertex. In addition, stimulation over the PMv increased finger movement speed in a (non-imitative) finger-thumb opposition task. We suggest that claims regarding the role of the PMv in object-directed hand shaping may stem from the prevalence of object-directed designs in motor control research. Our results indicate that the PMv may have a broader role in ‘target-directed’ hand shaping, whereby different areas of the hand are considered targets to act upon during intransitive gesturing.

License: CC-By Attribution 4.0 International

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