Neural correlates of transitive and intransitive action imitation: an investigation using voxel-based morphometry.
Bonivento C., Rothstein P., Humphreys G., Chechlacz M.
The ability to reproduce visually presented actions has been studied through neuropsychological observations of patients with ideomotor apraxia. These studies include attempts to understand the neural basis of action reproduction based on lesion-symptom mapping in different patient groups. While there is a convergence of evidence that areas in the parietal and frontal lobes within the left hemisphere are involved in the imitation of a variety of actions, questions remain about whether the results generalize beyond the imitation of tool use and whether the presence of a strong grasp component of the action is critical. Here we used voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping to assess the neural substrates of imitating meaningful (familiar, MF) and meaningless (unfamiliar, ML) tool-related (transitive) and non-tool related (intransitive) actions. The analysis showed that the left parietal cortex was involved in the imitation of transitive gestures, regardless of whether they were meaningful or not. In addition there was poor reproduction of meaningless actions (both transitive and intransitive) following damage of the right frontal cortex. These findings suggest a role of right frontal regions in processing of unfamiliar actions.