Speaker: Prof. Alessio Avenanti, Center for studies and research in Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, Alma Mater Studiorum - University of Bologna, Cesena; and IRCCS  Santa Lucia Foundation, Rome. 

Time: 13:00-14:30, June 5th, 2018

Location: #1113, Wangkezhen Building, Peking University

Abstract: Years of research on the neural correlates of action perception have highlighted a complex brain network that is recruited when we observe the actions of others - so called Action Observation Network (AON). The AON is thought to comprise visual occipito-temporal areas involved in processing biological motion and multimodal fronto-parietal areas possibly involved in coupling observed actions onto motor representations of similar actions. However, how these different components of the AON interact to give rise to accurate perception is still poorly understood. Here, I will combine behavioral, electrophysiological and brain stimulation methods to establish the functional relevance of reentrant connections from anterior to posterior nodes of the human AON. Using TMS-EEG coregistration and novel TMS protocols based on Hebbian principle of synaptic plasticity, I will track and functionally manipulate reentrant connectivity from the inferior frontal cortex (IFC) to the superior temporal sulcus (STS). I will show that strengthening such reentrant connections enhances the ability to efficiently process observed actions. Our findings provide evidence of neural interactions from anterior-to-posterior nodes of the AON and establish the functional relevance of backward connectivity to action perception. Our research provides an unprecedented non-invasive approach to target specific neural connections within the social brain and enhance their synaptic efficiency. This research has implications for theoretical models of visual perception and for establishing novel neurorehabilitative interventions based on the exogenous manipulation of cortico-cortical connectivity. 

Host: Prof. Shihui Han