Understanding actors and object-goals in the human brain.

Richard Ramsey, Antonia F. de C. Hamilton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


When another person takes £10 from your hand, it matters if they are a shopkeeper or a robber. That is, the meaning of a simple, goal-directed action can vary depending on the identity of the actors involved. Research examining action understanding has identified an action observation network (AON) that encodes action features such as goals and kinematics. However, it is not yet known how or where the brain links actor identity to action goal. In the present paper, we used a repetition suppression paradigm during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the neural representation of actor identity within the context of object-directed actions. Participants watched video clips of two different actors with two different object-goals. Repeated presentation of the same actor suppressed the blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) response in fusiform gyrus and occipitotemporal cortex. In contrast, repeated presentation of an action with the same object-goal suppressed the BOLD response throughout the AON. Our data reveal an extended brain network for understanding other people and their everyday actions that go beyond the traditional action observation network.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1142–1147
Number of pages6
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • action observation
  • actor identity
  • agency
  • fMRI
  • mirror neuron system
  • social cognition


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