Prediction processes during multiple object tracking (MOT): involvement of dorsal and ventral premotor cortices

Brain Behav. 2013 Nov;3(6):683-700. doi: 10.1002/brb3.180. Epub 2013 Oct 3.


Background: The multiple object tracking (MOT) paradigm is a cognitive task that requires parallel tracking of several identical, moving objects following nongoal-directed, arbitrary motion trajectories.

Aims: The current study aimed to investigate the employment of prediction processes during MOT. As an indicator for the involvement of prediction processes, we targeted the human premotor cortex (PM). The PM has been repeatedly implicated to serve the internal modeling of future actions and action effects, as well as purely perceptual events, by means of predictive feedforward functions.

Materials and methods: Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), BOLD activations recorded during MOT were contrasted with those recorded during the execution of a cognitive control task that used an identical stimulus display and demanded similar attentional load. A particular effort was made to identify and exclude previously found activation in the PM-adjacent frontal eye fields (FEF).

Results: We replicated prior results, revealing occipitotemporal, parietal, and frontal areas to be engaged in MOT.

Discussion: The activation in frontal areas is interpreted to originate from dorsal and ventral premotor cortices. The results are discussed in light of our assumption that MOT engages prediction processes.

Conclusion: We propose that our results provide first clues that MOT does not only involve visuospatial perception and attention processes, but prediction processes as well.

Keywords: Action prediction; dorsal premotor cortex; fMRI; multiple object tracking; perceptual event prediction; predictive forward models; ventral premotor cortex.