Human visual adaptation and monkey superior temporal sulcus cell responses to goal-directed hand actions

Nick Barraclough, Rebecca H. Keith, Dengke Xiao, Mike W. Oram, David I. Perrett

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Prolonged exposure to visual stimuli, often results in an adaptation ‘after-effect’ which distorts our perception of subsequent visual stimuli. This technique has been commonly used to investigate mechanisms underlying our perception of simple visual stimuli, and more recently of static faces. We tested the effects of adaptation to movies of hands grasping and its ‘opposite’, placing objects of different weight in humans and compared the results to single cell recordings in the superior temporal sulcus of the monkey. Adapting to hands grasping light or heavy objects led to objects appearing relatively heavier, or lighter, respectively. The after-effects increased logarithmically with adaptation action repetition and decayed logarithmically with time. Adaptation after-effects also indicated that perception of actions relies predominantly on view-dependent mechanisms. Adapting to one action significantly influenced the perception of the opposite action, suggesting common processing mechanisms. These after-effects can only be explained by adaptation of mechanisms that take into account the presence/absence of the object in the hand. We tested if evidence for action processing mechanisms obtained using visual adaptation techniques substantiates neural processing. We recorded monkey superior temporal sulcus (STS) single cell responses to hand actions. Cells displayed selectivity for action type responded during particular action phases but were often additionally responsive to components of opposite actions. Cell responses were sensitive to the view of the action, and were dependent upon the presence of the object in the scene. We show that action processing mechanisms established using visual adaptation parallel the neural mechanisms revealed during recording from monkey STS. Visual adaptation techniques can thus be usefully employed to investigate brain mechanisms underlying action perception.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNeuroscience Meeting Planner
PublisherSociety for Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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