Viewing the motion of human body parts activates different regions of premotor, temporal, and parietal cortex.
Activation of premotor and temporoparietal cortex occurs when we observe others movements, particularly relating to objects. Viewing the motion of different body parts without the context of an object has not been systematically evaluated. During a 3T fMRI study, 12 healthy subjects viewed human face, hand, and leg motion, which was not directed at or did not involve an object. Activation was identified relative to static images of the same human face, hand, and leg in both individual subject and group average data. Four clear activation foci emerged: (1) right MT/V5 activated to all forms of viewed motion; (2) right STS activated to face and leg motion; (3) ventral premotor cortex activated to face, hand, and leg motion in the right hemisphere and to leg motion in the left hemisphere; and (4) anterior intraparietal cortex (aIP) was active bilaterally to viewing hand motion and in the right hemisphere leg motion. In addition, in the group data, a somatotopic activation pattern for viewing face, hand, and leg motion occurred in right ventral premotor cortex. Activation patterns in STS and aIP were more complex--typically activation foci to viewing two types of human motion showed some overlap. Activation in individual subjects was similar; however, activation to hand motion also occurred in the STS with a variable location across subjects--explaining the lack of a clear activation focus in the group data. The data indicate that there are selective responses to viewing motion of different body parts in the human brain that are independent of object or tool use.