The aim of the present study was to examine cortical correlates of motor execution, motor observation and motor imagery of hand complex gestures, in particular by comparing meaningful gestures implying the use of an object (transitive action) or not (intransitive action). Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) was used to verify the presence of partial overlapping between some cortical areas involved in those different tasks. Participants were instructed to observe videos of transitive vs. intransitive gestures and then to execute or imagine them. Gesture execution was associated to greater brain activity (increased oxygenated hemoglobin levels) with respect to observation and imagination in motor areas (premotor cortex, PMC; primary sensorimotor cortex, SM1). In contrast, the posterior parietal cortex (PPC) was more relevantly involved in both execution and observation tasks compared to gesture imagination. Moreover, execution and observation of transitive gestures seemed primarily supported by similar parietal posterior areas when compared with intransitive gestures, which do not imply the presence on a object.
- Gesture representation
- Mirror system