Imagined transformations of bodies: an fMRI investigation.
A number of spatial reasoning problems can be solved by performing an imagined transformation of one's egocentric perspective. A series of experiments were carried out to characterize this process behaviorally and in terms of its brain basis, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (tMRI). In a task contrast designed to isolate egocentric perspective transformations, participants were slower to make left-right judgments about a human figure from the figure's perspective than from their own. This transformation led to increased cortical activity around the left parietal-temporal-occipital junction, as well as in other areas including left frontal cortex. In a second task contrast comparing judgments about inverted figures to judgments about upright figures (always from the figure's perspective), participants were slower to make left-right judgments about inverted figures than upright ones. This transformation led to activation in posterior areas near those active in the first experiment, but weaker in the left hemisphere and stronger in the right, and also to substantial left frontal activation. Together, the data support the specialization of areas near the parietal-temporal-occipital junction for egocentric perspective transformations. These results are also suggestive of a dissociation between egocentric perspective transformations and object-based spatial transformations such as mental rotation.