Observing action sequences elicits sequence-specific neural representations in frontoparietal brain regions

Apshvalka, D., Cross, E. S. and Ramsey, R. (2018) Observing action sequences elicits sequence-specific neural representations in frontoparietal brain regions. Journal of Neuroscience, 38(47), pp. 10114-10128. (doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1597-18.2018) (PMID:30282731) (PMCID:PMC6596197)

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Learning new skills by watching others is important for social and motor development throughout the lifespan. Prior research has suggested that observational learning shares common substrates with physical practice at both cognitive and brain levels. In addition, neuroimaging studies have used multivariate analysis techniques to understand neural representations in a variety of domains including vision, audition, memory and action, but few studies have investigated neural plasticity in representational space. As such, although movement sequences can be learned by observing other people's actions, a largely unanswered question in neuroscience is how experience shapes the representational space of neural systems. Here, across a sample of male and female participants, we combined pre- and post-training fMRI sessions with six days of observational practice to examine whether the observation of action sequences elicits sequence-specific representations in human frontoparietal brain regions and the extent to which these representations become more pronounced with observational practice. Our results showed that observed action sequences are modelled by distinct patterns of activity in frontoparietal cortex and that such representations largely generalise to very similar, but untrained, sequences. These findings advance our understanding of what is modelled during observational learning (sequence-specific information), as well as how it is modelled (reorganisation of frontoparietal cortex is similar to that previously shown following physical practice). Thus, on a more fine-grained neural level than demonstrated previously, we show the representational structure of how frontoparietal cortex maps visual information onto motor circuits to order to enhance motor performance.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This work was supported by the Ministry of Defence of the United Kingdom Defence Science and Technology Laboratory [grant number DSTLX-1000083177 to ESC and RR], the Economic and Social Research Council [grant numbers ES/K001884/1 to RR and ES/K001892/1 to ESC], and a Marie Curie Actions/FP7 [CIG11-2012-322256 to ESC].
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Cross, Professor Emily
Authors: Apshvalka, D., Cross, E. S., and Ramsey, R.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology
Journal Name:Journal of Neuroscience
Publisher:The Society for Neuroscience
ISSN (Online):1529-2401
Published Online:03 October 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 The Authors
First Published:First published in Journal of Neuroscience 38(47): 10114-10128
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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