Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO)
We do not only perceive the world, but also act on it through seamless transformations of sensory information into behavioral responses. There has been great interest on the issue of sensorimotor transformations and motor control, that is on how the neural codes of stimuli and responses are merged2,10,71. However, sensorimotor processes are not just intricate stimulus-response reflexes, but rather flexible integrative processes33. Being able to manipulate high-level representations of stimuli and responses is crucial for implementing such flexible sensorimotor transformations53,54,74. In this project we are concerned with characterizing the neural dynamics of these motor cognitive processes. By motor cognitive processes we mean neural activity induced by sensorimotor phenomena but independent from signals evoked by purely sensory or motoric events. We will capitalize on solid psychophysical phenomena51,64 to gain insights into the nature of information processes evoked during the manipulation of internal representations of actions. By combining implicit motor imagery tasks50 with neuroimaging tools, we will define spatio-temporal features of the cerebral correlates of movement representations independently from action performance14. We are particularly concerned with defining the exact contribution of precentral, parietal and posterior temporal cortex to the retrieval of motor plans. These cortical regions have been repeatedly implicated in manipulating action representations76, although their distinctive role remains unclear30,72,77. Our working hypothesis is that these regions represent different sensorimotor processes. We predict that precentral and parietal activities are necessary for specifying the precise parameters of an intended action in kinæsthetic and visuospatial frameworks. Conversely, activity in temporal cortex is likely involved in assessing the sensory consequences of a motor plan29 and thus corollary to it.