Human movements, besides entailing the presence of a body shape, comply with characteristic kinematic laws of motion. Psychophysical studies show that low-level motion perception is biased toward stimuli complying with these laws. However, the neuronal structures that are sensitive to the kinematic laws of observed bodily movements are still largely unknown. We investigated this issue by dissociating, by means of computer-generated characters, form and motion information during the observation of human movements. In a functional imaging experiment, we compared the levels of blood oxygen level-dependent activity elicited by human actions complying with or violating the kinematic laws of human movements. Actions complying with normal kinematic laws of motion differentially activated the left dorsal premotor and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex as well as the medial frontal cortex. These findings suggest that the kinematic laws of human movements specifically modulate the responses of neuronal circuits also involved in action recognition and that are predominantly located in the left frontal lobe.
- action observation
- biological motion
- functional magnetic resonance imaging
- kinematic invariants