Tool Use: Part of the Body Schema

The Italian Neuroscience Mafia is at it again: Giacomo Rizzolatti and cohorts recorded the brain activity of macaque monkeys in the F5 and F1 areas while they were grasping with their hands and then when they were grasping with a pair of pliers. Remarkably, the same neurons fired in the same order when they were grasping with their hands as when they were grasping with the tool. Furthermore, the same neurons also fired in the same order when the monkeys used “reverse pliers” that required closing and then opening the hand in order to grasp the food. Because of this, the researchers concluded that “the capacity to use tools is based on an inherently goal-centered functional organization of primate cortical motor areas.”

Their evidence clearly shows that there are cortical neurons in the F5 and F1 area that code for for the goal of motor acts, instead of the motor act itself. These neurons are then connected to neurons that more specifically code for the motor act of opening and closing. Furthermore, the researchers show evidence that amidst the goal-directed neurons in the F5 area, mirror neurons are also involved, which code for goal-directed actions during the observation and execution of an act and are rich in the F5 area.

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