Planning Ahead: Object-Directed Sequential Actions Decoded from Human Frontoparietal and Occipitotemporal Networks.
Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991)
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Object-manipulation tasks (e.g., drinking from a cup) typically involve sequencing together a series of distinct motor acts (e.g., reaching toward, grasping, lifting, and transporting the cup) in order to accomplish some overarching goal (e.g., quenching thirst). Although several studies in humans have investigated the neural mechanisms supporting the planning of visually guided movements directed toward objects (such as reaching or pointing), only a handful have examined how manipulatory sequences of actions-those that occur after an object has been grasped-are planned and represented in the brain. Here, using event-related functional MRI and pattern decoding methods, we investigated the neural basis of real-object manipulation using a delayed-movement task in which participants first prepared and then executed different object-directed action sequences that varied either in their complexity or final spatial goals. Consistent with previous reports of preparatory brain activity in non-human primates, we found that activity patterns in several frontoparietal areas reliably predicted entire action sequences in advance of movement. Notably, we found that similar sequence-related information could also be decoded from pre-movement signals in object- and body-selective occipitotemporal cortex (OTC). These findings suggest that both frontoparietal and occipitotemporal circuits are engaged in transforming object-related information into complex, goal-directed movements.