Perceiving Biological Motion: Dissociating Visible Speech from Walking

Andrea Santi, Wilfrid Laurier University
Philip Servos, Wilfrid Laurier University
Eric Vatikiotis-Bateson, ATR Human Information Science Laboratories
Takaaki Kuratate, ATR Human Information Science Laboratories
Kevin Munhall, Queen's University - Kingston, Ontario

This article was originally published in Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 15(6): 800-809. (c) 2003 Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Neuropsychological research suggests that the neural system underlying visible speech on the basis of kinematics is distinct from the system underlying visible speech of static images of the face and identifying whole-body actions from kinematics alone. Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to identify the neural systems underlying point-light visible speech, as well as perception of a walking/jumping point-light body, to determine if they are independent. Although both point-light stimuli produced overlapping activation in the right middle occipital gyrus encompassing area KO and the right inferior temporal gyrus, they also activated distinct areas. Perception of walking biological motion activated a medial occipital area along the lingual gyrus close to the cuneus border, and the ventromedial frontal cortex, neither of which was activated by visible speech biological motion. In contrast, perception of visible speech biological motion activated right V5 and a network of motor-related areas (Broca’s area, PM, M1, and supplementary motor area (SMA)), none of which were activated by walking biological motion. Many of the areas activated by seeing visible speech biological motion are similar to those activated while speechreading from an actual face, with the exception of M1 and medial SMA. The motor-related areas found to be active during point-light visible speech are consistent with recent work characterizing the human “mirror” system (Rizzolatti, Fadiga, Gallese, & Fogassi, 1996).