Modulation of brain activity during action observation: influence of perspective, transitivity and meaningfulness

PLoS One. 2011;6(9):e24728. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0024728. Epub 2011 Sep 12.


The coupling process between observed and performed actions is thought to be performed by a fronto-parietal perception-action system including regions of the inferior frontal gyrus and the inferior parietal lobule. When investigating the influence of the movements' characteristics on this process, most research on action observation has focused on only one particular variable even though the type of movements we observe can vary on several levels. By manipulating the visual perspective, transitivity and meaningfulness of observed movements in a functional magnetic resonance imaging study we aimed at investigating how the type of movements and the visual perspective can modulate brain activity during action observation in healthy individuals. Importantly, we used an active observation task where participants had to subsequently execute or imagine the observed movements. Our results show that the fronto-parietal regions of the perception action system were mostly recruited during the observation of meaningless actions while visual perspective had little influence on the activity within the perception-action system. Simultaneous investigation of several sources of modulation during active action observation is probably an approach that could lead to a greater ecological comprehension of this important sensorimotor process.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Motor Activity
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult