Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
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Selecting hand actions to manipulate an object is affected both by perceptual factors and by action goals. Affordances may contribute to “stimulus–response” congruency effects driven by habitual actions to an object. In previous studies, we have demonstrated an influence of the congruency between hand and object orientations on response times when reaching to turn an object, such as a cup. In this study, we investigated how the representation of hand postures triggered by planning to turn a cup was influenced by this congruency effect, in an fMRI scanning environment. Healthy participants were asked to reach and turn a real cup that was placed in front of them either in an upright orientation or upside–down. They were instructed to use a hand orientation that was either congruent or incongruent with the cup orientation. As expected, the motor responses were faster when the hand and cup orientations were congruent. There was increased activity in a network of brain regions involving object-directed actions during action planning, which included bilateral primary and extrastriate visual, medial, and superior temporal areas, as well as superior parietal, primary motor, and premotor areas in the left hemisphere. Specific activation of the dorsal premotor cortex was associated with hand–object orientation congruency during planning and prior to any action taking place. Activity in that area and its connectivity with the lateral occipitotemporal cortex increased when planning incongruent (goal-directed) actions. The increased activity in premotor areas in trials where the orientation of the hand was incongruent to that of the object suggests a role in eliciting competing representations specified by hand postures in lateral occipito-temporal cortex.