Burcu Ayşen Ürgen, PhD
Department of Neuroscience,University of Parma, ITALY
“Spatio-temporal Neuroimaging of Visual Processing of Actions in Humans”
Successfully recognizing the actions of others is of utmost importance for the survival of many species. For humans, action perception is considered to support important higher order social skills, such as communication, intention understanding and empathy, some of which may be uniquely human. Over the last two decades, neurophysiological and neuroimaging studies in primates have identified a network of regions in occipito-temporal, parietal and premotor cortex that are associated with perception of actions, known as the Action Observation Network. Despite a growing body of literature, the functional properties of this network remain largely unknown. We take a multi-modal, interdisciplinary, and computational approach to characterize the functional properties of this network in humans. To this end, we 1) use a wide range of brain measurement modalities including fMRI, intracerebral recordings (cortical oscillations), and event-related brain potentials (ERPs) to investigate the neural processing both spatially and temporally while human subjects perform action observation tasks, 2) utilize state-of-the-art analytical techniques including representational similarity analysis and computer vision, 3) collaborate with a robotics lab to vary various aspects of actions including visual appearance and movement kinematics of the agents. Our findings suggest Action Observation Network is a hierarchical system in which increasing levels of the cortex code for increasingly complex aspects of actions starting from movement kinematics to somatosensory properties and semantics. Furthermore, our results also suggest that evolutionarily new and human-specific actions drive more extended regions in the network, and recycle the regions that are devoted to evolutionarily older but functionally similar actions. While our findings improve our understanding of the Action Observation Network, the interdisciplinary work with robotics also allows us to address questions regarding human factors in artificial agent design in social robotics and human-robot interaction such as uncanny valley, which is concerned with what kind of agents we should design so that humans can easily accept them as social partners. In the final part of the talk, I will talk about my ongoing and future work which aims to characterize 1) the stages of information processing during action perception using a combination of behavioral measurements, neuroimaging, and computational modeling, 2) network dynamics of the Action Observation Network using network modeling techniques, and 3) principles for successful artificial agent design using a combination of behavioral measurements and neuroimaging.
DATE : Tuesday, 27 March 2018
TIME : 12.40-13.30
ROOM : A 130