Motor facilitation following action observation: a behavioural study in prehensile action

Brain Cogn. 2003 Dec;53(3):495-502. doi: 10.1016/s0278-2626(03)00210-0.


Previous research has shown that the observation of actions and the execution of actions activate common neural systems. More recently, we have presented data showing that action observation of prehension primes subsequent execution (Castiello, Lusher, Mari, Edwards, & Humphreys, 2002). In the current paper we examined action priming under conditions in which the size of the prime did not predict the size of the target (only 20% of trials were valid). We demonstrated reliable priming under these conditions, consistent with the effect occurring automatically. In addition, we show priming even when observers saw just the object rather than the object and a reaching action on the prime trial. We discuss the findings in relation to the role of mirror neurons and object affordances.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Hand Strength / physiology
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior*
  • Observation
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Visual Perception*