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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Hum. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2019.00416

Action Observation and Effector Independency

  • 1University of Padova, Italy
  • 2Ghent University, Belgium

The finding of reasonably consistent spatial and temporal productions of actions across different body parts has been used to argue in favor of the existence of a high-order representation of motor programs. In these terms, a generalized motor program consists of an abstract memory structure apt to specify a class of non-specific instructions used to guide a broad range of movements (e.g., “grasp”, “bite”). Although a number of studies, using a variety of tasks, have assessed the issue of effector independence in terms of action execution, little is known regarding the issue of effector independence within an action observation context. Here corticospinal excitability of the right hand’s First Dorsal Interosseous (FDI) and Abductor Digiti Minimi (ADM) muscles was assessed by means of single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (spTMS) during observation of a grasping action performed by the hand, the foot, the mouth, the elbow, or the knee. The results indicate that observing a grasping action performed with different body parts activates the effector typically adopted to execute that action, i.e. the hand. We contend that, as far as grasping is concerned, motor activations by action observation are evident in the muscles typically used to perform the observed action, even when the action is executed with another effector. Nevertheless, some exceptions call for a deeper analysis of motor coding.

Keywords: motor resonance, action execution-action observation, effector independence, Motor evoked Potentials, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, corticospinal excitability

Received: 01 Jul 2019; Accepted: 08 Nov 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Betti, Deceuninck, Sartori and Castiello. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Sonia Betti, University of Padova, Padova, Italy, sonia.betti@studenti.unipd.it