Journal of Neuroscience vol:29 issue:22 pages:7315-7329
In a series of human functional magnetic resonance imaging experiments, we systematically manipulated point-light stimuli to identify the contributions of the various areas implicated in biological motion processing (for review, see Giese and Poggio, 2003). The first experiment consisted of a 2 x 2 factorial design with global shape and kinematics as factors. In two additional experiments, we investigated the contributions of local opponent motion, the complexity of the portrayed movement and a one-back task to the activation pattern. Experiment 1 revealed a clear separation between shape and motion processing, resulting in two branches of activation. A ventral region, extending from the lateral occipital sulcus to the posterior inferior temporal gyrus, showed a main effect of shape and its extension into the fusiform gyrus also an interaction. The dorsal region, including the posterior inferior temporal sulcus and the posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS), showed a main effect of kinematics together with an interaction. Region of interest analysis identified these interaction sites as the extrastriate and fusiform body areas (EBA and FBA). The local opponent motion cue yielded only little activation, limited to the ventral region (experiment 3). Our results suggest that the EBA and the FBA correspond to the initial stages in visual action analysis, in which the performed action is linked to the body of the actor. Moreover, experiment 2 indicates that the body areas are activated automatically even in the absence of a task, whereas other cortical areas like pSTS or frontal regions depend on the complexity of movements or task instructions for their activation.