Additive routes to action learning: layering experience shapes engagement of the action observation network

Louise P. Kirsch, Emily S. Cross*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)
15 Downloads (Pure)


The way in which we perceive others in action is biased by one's prior experience with an observed action. For example, we can have auditory, visual, ormotor experiencewith actionswe observe others perform. Howaction experience via 1, 2, or all 3 of these modalities shapes action perception remains unclear. Here, we combine pre-and post-training functional magnetic resonance imaging measures with a dance training manipulation to address how building experience (from auditory to audiovisual to audiovisual plus motor) with a complex action shapes subsequent action perception. Results indicate that layering experience across these 3 modalities activates a number of sensorimotor cortical regions associated with the action observation network (AON) in such a way that themore modalities through which one experiences an action, the greater the response is within these AON regions during action perception. Moreover, a correlation between left premotor activity and participants' scores for reproducing an action suggests that the better an observer can perform an observed action, the stronger the neural response is. The findings suggest that the number of modalities through which an observer experiences an action impacts AON activity additively, and that premotor cortical activity might serve as an index of embodiment during action observation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4799-4811
Number of pages13
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2015. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • action observation network
  • dance
  • motor learning
  • parietal
  • premotor
  • training


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