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Lateralization of motor excitability during observation of bimanual signs

Lateralization of motor excitability during observation of bimanual signs

Möttönen, Riikka, Farmer, Harry ORCID: 0000-0002-3684-0605 and Watkins, Kate E. (2010) Lateralization of motor excitability during observation of bimanual signs. Neuropsychologia, 48 (10). pp. 3173-3177. ISSN 0028-3932 (doi:

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Viewing another person's hand actions enhances excitability in an observer's left and right primary motor (M1) cortex. We aimed to determine whether viewing communicative hand actions alters this bilateral sensorimotor resonance. Using single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), we measured excitability in the left and right M1 while right-handed non-signing participants observed bimanual communicative hand actions, i.e., meaningful signs in British Sign Language. TMS-induced motor evoked potentials were recorded from hand muscles during sign observation before and after teaching the participants to associate meanings with half of the signs. Before this teaching, when participants did not know that the presented hand actions were signs, excitability of left and right M1 was modulated equally. After learning the meanings of half the signs, excitability of the left, but not right, M1 was significantly enhanced. This left-lateralized enhancement of M1 excitability occurred during observation of signs with known and unknown meanings. The findings suggest that awareness of the communicative nature of another person's hand actions strengthens sensorimotor resonance in the left M1 cortex and alters hemispheric balance during action observation.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: mirror neurons, action observation, transcranial magnetic stimulation, sign language, communication
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > Department of Psychology, Social Work & Counselling
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2020 15:17
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
Selected for GREAT 2019: None
Selected for REF2021: None

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