Left occipitotemporal cortex contributes to the discrimination of tool-associated hand actions: fMRI and TMS evidence

Front Hum Neurosci. 2014 Aug 5:8:591. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00591. eCollection 2014.

Abstract

Functional neuroimaging studies have implicated the left lateral occipitotemporal cortex (LOTC) in both tool and hand perception but the functional role of this region is not fully known. Here, by using a task manipulation, we tested whether tool-/hand-selective LOTC contributes to the discrimination of tool-associated hand actions. Participants viewed briefly presented pictures of kitchen and garage tools while they performed one of two tasks: in the action task, they judged whether the tool is associated with a hand rotation action (e.g., screwdriver) or a hand squeeze action (e.g., garlic press), while in the location task they judged whether the tool is typically found in the kitchen (e.g., garlic press) or in the garage (e.g., screwdriver). Both tasks were performed on the same stimulus set and were matched for difficulty. Contrasting fMRI responses between these tasks showed stronger activity during the action task than the location task in both tool- and hand-selective LOTC regions, which closely overlapped. No differences were found in nearby object- and motion-selective control regions. Importantly, these findings were confirmed by a TMS study, which showed that effective TMS over the tool-/hand-selective LOTC region significantly slowed responses for tool action discriminations relative to tool location discriminations, with no such difference during sham TMS. We conclude that left LOTC contributes to the discrimination of tool-associated hand actions.

Keywords: action knowledge; hand selectivity; lateral occipitotemporal cortex; middle temporal gyrus; tool selectivity.