Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Paper Review: Acute immobilisation facilitates premotor preparatory activity for the non-restrained hand when facing grasp affordances

Acute immobilisation facilitates premotor preparatory activity for the non-restrained hand when facing grasp affordances.

Simone Kühn, Anika Werner, Ulman Lindenberger, Julius Verrel

NeuroImage, Springer - online


Use and non-use of body parts during goal-directed action are major forces driving reorganisation of neural processing. We investigated changes in functional brain activity resulting from acute short-term immobilisation of the dominant right hand. Informed by the concept of object affordances, we predicted that the presence or absence of a limb restraint would influence the perception of graspable objects in a laterally specific way.  Twenty-three participants underwent fMRI scanning during a passive object-viewing task before the intervention as well as with and without wearing an orthosis. The right dorsal premotor cortex and the left cerebellum were more strongly activated when the handle of an object was oriented towards the left hand while the right hand was immobilised compared with a situation where the hand was not immobilised. The cluster in the premotor cortex showing an interaction between condition (with restraint, without restraint) and stimulus action side (right vs. left) overlapped with the general task vs. baseline contrast prior to the intervention, confirming its functional significance for the task.  These results show that acute immobilisation of the dominant right hand leads to rapid changes of the perceived affordance of objects. We conclude that changes in action requirements lead to almost instantaneous changes in functional activation patterns, which in turn may trigger structural cortical plasticity.

This is another indicator of the effect of viewing objects in an orientation over planning behaviour in the brain (I assume this effect will modulate planning behaviours in humans, though they only indicate that the FMRI scan is affected).

I would like to see a follow up experiment that utilises cognitive talk-aloud protocols, in a similar manner to this review -  This would give credence to the possibility that objects presented in a virtual world enable users to talk about them more.

So, could the presentation of the objects kick off memories of previous process models, or could it also enable a person to create a better plan for future process models, as this goal directed behaviour may be future directed in an unpracticed manner.  Could the virtual world visualisations affect both the planning for future and the memory of the past, due to the evocation of spatial manipulation tasks in the world.

Could this be that even for business tasks, the situating of the person at the desk changes the planning behaviour?!?!?  I have to admit, that I often feel motivated when I hit my desk at work, not before or after.  The work place has an effect on me, and my goal setting state; more than my boss. ;-)

Interesting to note the neuro plasticity affects of this experiment, in an almost instant manner.  The effects are available instantly, with no training.  In this experiment, they only know they cannot move their hand, it is not really immobilised, and yet the effect takes place.

Would be interesting to note how immersion affects the perception of synthetic objects in this manner, and how it would work in an Occulus.

They cite a paper showing that wrestlers are superior in spatial rotation estimation, but only when their hands are unrestrained.  When their hands are restrained, they lose this ability.  This means that they potentially, are simulating the actions in their brain.  This adds further weight to the argument that cognitive processes are situated in bodily actions, and stored in such a manner in our brains.


Moreau, D., 2013. Constraining movement alters the recruitment of motor processes in 433 mental rotation. Exp. Brain Res. 224, 447–454.

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