Neurobehavioral Patterns during Action Observation and Execution of Complex Goal-Directed Movements

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Atawala, Neel
Wheaton, Lewis
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The production and mastery of complex action begins with action understanding, a process which arises from the observation of others. The mechanisms through which humans engage in action understanding are still debated, and several conceptual theories, such as the direct matching hypothesis and teleological stance theory, attempt to explain the underlying mechanisms. Tool-use utilizes the visual streams and the frontoparietal networks in order to encode the visual features of the task and the control of grasp. Areas in the frontoparietal network have been associated with action understanding due to the presence of mirror neurons. The visual streams, a network that interconnects occipital, parietal, and temporal areas, encode object shape, size, orientation, and use as well as eye movements during the online control of movement. Prior to the execution of movement such as in tool use, one must engage in motor planning, a three stage process that consists of: 1) task recognition 2) coordination of required motor sequences, and 3) performance of the task. Second order motor planning requires both knowledge and planning of immediate task demands (first order motor planning) along with the planning of the subsequent steps during reach and grasp. The purpose of this study is to analyze the neurobehavioral encoding of action intent during action observation and execution of a second order motor task using electroencephalography (EEG) and eye tracking. The results may help us uncover the neurobehavioral mechanisms in action understanding that we can leverage and target for more effective neurorehabilitative therapies.
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Undergraduate Thesis
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