Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The ability to recognize actions is important for cognitive development and social cognition. Areas in the lateral occipitotemporal cortex show increased activity when subjects view action sequences; however, whether this activity distinguishes between specific actions as necessary for action recognition is unclear. We used a functional magnetic resonance imaging adaptation paradigm to test for brain regions that exhibit action-specific activity. Subjects watched a series of action sequences in which the action performed or the person performing the action could be repeated from a previous scan. Three regions—the superior temporal sulcus (pSTS), human motion-sensitive cortex (MT/MST), and extrastriate body area (EBA)—showed decreased activity for previously seen actions, even when the actions were novel exemplars because the persons involved had not been seen previously. These action-specific adaptation effects provide compelling evidence that representations in the pSTS, MT/MST, and EBA abstract actions from the agents involved and distinguish between different particular actions.