Functional anatomy of biological motion perception in posterior temporal cortex: an FMRI study of eye, mouth and hand movements

Cereb Cortex. 2005 Dec;15(12):1866-76. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhi064. Epub 2005 Mar 2.


Passive viewing of biological motion engages extensive regions of the posterior temporal-occipital cortex in humans, particularly within and nearby the superior temporal sulcus (STS). Relatively little is known about the functional specificity of this area. Some recent studies have emphasized the perceived intentionality of the motion as a potential organizing principle, while others have suggested the existence of a somatotopy based upon the limb perceived in motion. Here we conducted an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment to compare activity elicited by movement of the eyes, mouth or hand. Each motion evoked robust activation in the right posterior temporal-occipital cortex. While there was substantial overlap of the activation maps in this region, the spatial distribution of hemodynamic response amplitudes differentiated the movements. Mouth movements elicited activity along the mid-posterior STS while eye movements elicited activity in more superior and posterior portions of the right posterior STS region. Hand movements activated more inferior and posterior portions of the STS region within the posterior continuing branch of the STS. Hand-evoked activity also extended into the inferior temporal, middle occipital and lingual gyri. This topography may, in part, reflect the role of particular body motions in different functional activities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Female
  • Hand / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Mouth / physiology
  • Movement / physiology
  • Social Behavior
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*