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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

December 2016, Vol. 28, No. 12, Pages 2021-2029
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01015)
© 2016 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
A Causal Role for Primary Motor Cortex in Perception of Observed Actions
Article PDF (405.92 KB)

It has been proposed that motor system activity during action observation may be modulated by the kinematics of observed actions. One purpose of this activity during action observation may be to predict the visual consequence of another person's action based on their movement kinematics. Here, we tested the hypothesis that the primary motor cortex (M1) may have a causal role in inferring information that is present in the kinematics of observed actions. Healthy participants completed an action perception task before and after applying continuous theta burst stimulation (cTBS) over left M1. A neurophysiological marker was used to quantify the extent of M1 disruption following cTBS and stratify our sample a priori to provide an internal control. We found that a disruption to M1 caused a reduction in an individual's sensitivity to interpret the kinematics of observed actions; the magnitude of suppression of motor excitability predicted this change in sensitivity.