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Williams A.,The Brain and Mind Institute | Williams A.,University of Western Ontario | Gribble P.L.,The Brain and Mind Institute | Gribble P.L.,University of Western Ontario
Journal of Neurophysiology | Year: 2012

A compelling idea in cognitive neuroscience links motor control and action observation. Recent work supports the idea that a link exists not just between action observation and action planning, but between observation and motor learning. Several studies support the idea that cortical regions that underlie active motor learning also play a role in motor learning by observing. The goal of the present study was to test whether motor learning by observing is effector dependent (as in active motor learning) or effector independent (as in studies of action observation and mirror neurons). Right-handed human subjects observed a video depicting another individual learning to reach to visual targets in a force field (FF). The video showed reaching in a clockwise FF (CWFF) or a counter-clockwise FF (CCWFF), and depicted an individual reaching with the right or left arm. After observation, all subjects were asked to reach in a CWFF, using their right arm. As in our prior studies, subjects who observed a CWFF prior to the CWFF test performed better than subjects who observed a CCWFF. We show here that this effect was seen both when observers watched others reach using their right arm, and when observers watched others learning to reach using the left arm. These results suggest that information about novel forces learned through observation is represented in an effector-independent coordinate frame, and are consistent with the idea that the brain links not only observation and movement, but motor learning as well, through abstract representations of actions. © 2012 the American Physiological Society.

Peel T.R.,The Brain and Mind Institute | Peel T.R.,University of Western Ontario | Johnston K.,The Brain and Mind Institute | Johnston K.,University of Western Ontario | And 5 more authors.
Journal of Neurophysiology | Year: 2014

Inactivation permits direct assessment of the functional contribution of a given brain area to behavior. Previous inactivation studies of the frontal eye field (FEF) have either used large permanent ablations or reversible pharmacological techniques that only inactivate a small volume of tissue. Here we evaluated the impact of large, yet reversible, FEF inactivation on visually guided, delayed, and memory-guided saccades, using cryoloops implanted in the arcuate sulcus. While FEF inactivation produced the expected triad of contralateral saccadic deficits (increased reaction time, decreased accuracy and peak velocity) and performance errors (neglect or misdirected saccades), we also found consistent increases in reaction times of ipsiversive saccades in all three tasks. In addition, FEF inactivation did not increase the proportion of premature saccades to ipsilateral targets, as was predicted on the basis of pharmacological studies. Consistent with previous studies, greater deficits accompanied saccades toward extinguished visual cues. Our results attest to the functional contribution of the FEF to saccades in both directions. We speculate that the comparative effects of different inactivation techniques relate to the volume of inactivated tissue within the FEF. Larger inactivation volumes may reveal the functional contribution of more sparsely distributed neurons within the FEF, such as those related to ipsiversive saccades. Furthermore, while focal FEF inactivation may disinhibit the mirroring site in the other FEF, larger inactivation volumes may induce broad disinhibition in the other FEF that paradoxically prolongs oculomotor processing via increased competitive interactions. © 2014 the American Physiological Society.

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