Journal of Neuroscience vol:31 issue:10 pages:3743-3756
In both monkeys and humans, the observation of actions performed by others activates cortical motor areas. An unresolved question concerns the pathways through which motor areas receive visual information describing motor acts. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we mapped the macaque brain regions activated during the observation of grasping actions, focusing on the superior temporal sulcus region (STS) and the posterior parietal lobe. Monkeys viewed either videos with only the grasping hand visible or videos with the whole actor visible. Observation of both types of grasping videos activated elongated regions in the depths of both lower and upper banks of STS, as well as parietal areas PFG and anterior intraparietal (AIP). The correlation of fMRI data with connectional data showed that visual action information, encoded in the STS, is forwarded to ventral premotor cortex (F5) along two distinct functional routes. One route connects the upper bank of the STS with area PFG, which projects, in turn, to the premotor area F5c. The other connects the anterior part of the lower bank of the STS with premotor areas F5a/p via AIP. Whereas the first functional route emphasizes the agent and may relay visual information to the parieto-frontal mirror circuit involved in understanding the agent's intentions, the second route emphasizes the object of the action and may aid in understanding motor acts with respect to their immediate goal.