[en] Humans, like numerous other species, strongly rely on the observation of gestures of other individuals in their everyday life. It is hypothesized that the visual processing of human gestures is sustained by a specific functional architecture, even at an early prelexical cognitive stage, different from that required for the processing of other visual entities. In the present PET study, the neural basis of visual gesture analysis was investigated with functional neuroimaging of brain activity during naming and orientation tasks performed on pictures of either static gestures (upper-limb postures) or tridimensional objects. To prevent automatic object-related cerebral activation during the visual processing of postures, only intransitive postures were selected, i.e., symbolic or meaningless postures which do not imply the handling of objects. Conversely, only intransitive objects which cannot be handled were selected to prevent gesture-related activation during their visual processing. Results clearly demonstrate a significant functional segregation between the processing of static intransitive postures and the processing of intransitive tridimensional objects. Visual processing of objects elicited mainly occipital and fusiform gyrus activity, while visual processing of postures strongly activated the lateral occipitotemporal junction, encroaching upon area MT/V5, involved in motion analysis. These findings suggest that the lateral occipitotemporal junction, working in association with area MT/V5, plays a prominent role in the high-level perceptual analysis of gesture, namely the construction of its visual representation, available for subsequent recognition or imitation. (C) 2000 Academic Press.
Centre de Recherches du Cyclotron - CRC
Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique (Communauté française de Belgique) - F.R.S.-FNRS