Contribution of the motor system to the perception of reachable space: an fMRI study.
Contributor(s)UCL - SSH/IPSY - Psychological Sciences Research Institute
UCL - SSS/IONS/COSY - Systems & cognitive Neuroscience
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AbstractThe present functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study investigates the neural correlates of reachability judgements. In a block design experiment, 14 healthy participants judged whether a visual target presented at different distances in a virtual environment display was reachable or not with the right hand. In two control tasks, they judged the colour or the relative position of the visual target according to flankers. Contrasting the activations registered in the reachability judgement task and in the control tasks, we found activations in the frontal structures, and in the bilateral inferior and superior parietal lobe, including the precuneus, and the bilateral cerebellum. This fronto-parietal network including the cerebellum overlaps with the brain network usually activated during actual motor production and motor imagery. In a following event-related design experiment, we contrasted brain activations when targets were rated as 'reachable' with those when they were rated as 'unreachable'. We found activations in the left premotor cortex, the bilateral frontal structures, and the left middle temporal gyrus. At a lower threshold, we also found activations in the left motor cortex, and in the bilateral cerebellum. Given that reaction time increased with target distance in reachable space, we performed a subsequent parametric analysis that revealed a related increase of activity in the fronto-parietal network including the cerebellum. Unreachable targets did not show similar activation, and particularly in regions associated to motor production and motor imagery. Taken together, these results suggest that dynamical motor representations used to determine what is reachable are also part of the perceptual process leading to the distinct representation of peripersonal and extrapersonal spaces.