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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Differential activation of the lateral premotor cortex during action observation

Sebastian Pilgramm12*, Britta Lorey12, Rudolf Stark2, Jörn Munzert1, Dieter Vaitl2 and Karen Zentgraf23

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Sport Science, Justus Liebig University Giessen, Kugelberg 62, 35394 Giessen, Germany

2 Bender Institute of Neuroimaging, Justus Liebig University Giessen, Otto-Behaghel-Str. 10 H, 35394 Giessen, Germany

3 Institute of Sport Science, University of Berne, Bremgartenstrasse 145, 3012 Bern, Switzerland

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BMC Neuroscience 2010, 11:89  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-11-89

Published: 31 July 2010

Abstract

Background

Action observation leads to neural activation of the human premotor cortex. This study examined how the level of motor expertise (expert vs. novice) in ballroom dancing and the visual viewpoint (internal vs. external viewpoint) influence this activation within different parts of this area of the brain.

Results

Sixteen dance experts and 16 novices observed ballroom dance videos from internal or external viewpoints while lying in a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner. A conjunction analysis of all observation conditions showed that action observation activated distinct networks of premotor, parietal, and cerebellar structures. Experts revealed increased activation in the ventral premotor cortex compared to novices. An internal viewpoint led to higher activation of the dorsal premotor cortex.

Conclusions

The present results suggest that the ventral and dorsal premotor cortex adopt differential roles during action observation depending on the level of motor expertise and the viewpoint.