The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Involvement of the superior temporal cortex in action execution and action observation.

PMID 24990920


The role of the superior temporal sulcus (STs) in action execution and action observation remains unsettled. In an attempt to shed more light on the matter, we used the quantitative method of (14)C-deoxyglucose to reveal changes in activity, in the cortex of STs and adjacent inferior and superior temporal convexities of monkeys, elicited by reaching-to-grasp in the light or in the dark and by observation of the same action executed by an external agent. We found that observation of reaching-to-grasp activated the components of the superior temporal polysensory area [STP; including temporo-parieto-occipital association area (TPO), PGa, and IPa], the motion complex [including medial superior temporal area (MST), fundus of superior temporal area (FST), and dorsal and ventral parts of the middle temporal area (MTd and MTv, respectively)], and area TS2. A significant part of most of these activations was associated with observation of the goal-directed action, and a smaller part with the perception of arm-motion. Execution of reaching-to-grasp in the light-activated areas TS2, STP partially and marginally, and MT compared with the fixation but not to the arm-motion control. Consequently, MT-activation is associated with the arm-motion and not with the purposeful action. Finally, reaching-to-grasp in complete darkness activated all components of the motion complex. Conclusively, lack of visibility of our own actions involves the motion complex, whereas observation of others' actions engages area STP and the motion complex. Our previous and present findings together suggest that sensory effects are interweaved with motor commands in integrated action codes, and observation of an action or its execution in complete darkness triggers the retrieval of the visual representation of the action.