Neural processing of observed oro-facial movements reflects multiple action encoding strategies in the human brain

Suresh D. Muthukumaraswamy*, Blake W. Johnson, William C. Gaetz, Douglas O. Cheyne

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


In this experiment, the oscillatory responses of the MEG were characterized during the observation of four viewing conditions: (a) observation of mouth movements, (b) observation of a non-biological motion stimulus (a mechanical aperture opening and shutting), (c) observation of object-directed mouth movements and (d) observation of speech-like mouth movements. Data were analyzed using synthetic aperture magnetometry (SAM) in three frequency bands, beta (15-35 Hz), gamma (35-70 Hz) and alpha/mu (8-15 Hz). Results showed that observations of biological motion resulted in beta desynchronization over lateral sensorimotor areas, while observations of non-biological motion resulted in a more medial desynchronization, an effect that may be related to the processing of a structured event sequence. Observation of linguistic movements resulted in less alpha/beta desynchronization in posterior brain regions in comparison to biological motion stimuli, suggesting that linguistically-relevant stimuli are processed with different neuronal systems than those recruited by normal action observation. We suggest that non-linguistic actions recruit dorsal systems while linguistic actions engage ventral processing systems. Object-directed movements showed the largest sensorimotor activations, suggesting that, as is the case for observations of hand movements, motoric processing is particularly sensitive to the viewing of goal-directed actions. Taken together, the results indicate that the brain utilizes multiple action encoding strategies, tailored to the function of the observed movement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-112
Number of pages8
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Action observation
  • Beta rhythm
  • Biological motion
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Mirror neuron
  • Synthetic aperture magnetometry


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