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Understanding the function of a tool is an essential step in learning to use a tool. This aspect of interaction with tools has hitherto been neglected. Unlike acquiring the expertise in handling a new tool, which involves practice, understanding its function usually only requires a single observation of the tool being used. The present study uncovers the neural areas involved in this transient understanding effect as a left-lateralized pattern involving prefrontal and mediotemporal areas. We suggest that activation in this network reflects the conceptual encoding of the function of new tools as it is independent from the well-known tool-related networks. We demonstrate that understanding the function of a new tool does not rely on known semantic or motor networks involved in processing tool use.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1438 - 1444


Adult, Cerebral Cortex, Comprehension, Female, Functional Laterality, Humans, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Learning, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Motor Skills, Nerve Net, Photic Stimulation, Recognition (Psychology), Young Adult