Prediction of external events with our motor system: towards a new framework

Trends Cogn Sci. 2007 May;11(5):211-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2007.02.006. Epub 2007 Mar 23.


We cannot, in the proper sense, imitate or re-enact inanimate events, such as ocean waves rolling, or even non-human animate ones, such as dogs walking. However, we can anticipate the way they change and recent studies show that our motor system becomes involved while doing so. A novel framework is presented that accounts for these findings by generalizing a predictive account of the motor system from action to event perception. It is suggested that we predict events that we cannot reproduce ourselves by exploiting an audiomotor or visuomotor representation that never amounts to a real action because it lacks proprioceptive and other interoceptive information. This view inspires thinking beyond our customary conceptualization of a 'motor' system.

MeSH terms

  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Motion Perception*
  • Proprioception / physiology
  • Skin
  • Smell / physiology
  • Touch / physiology