Electrophysiological correlates of biological motion permanence in humans

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Spatiotemporal discontinuity of visual input is a common occurrence in daily life. For example, when a walking person disappears temporarily behind a wall, observers have a clear sense of his physical presence despite the absence of any visual information (movement permanence). To investigate the neural substrates of biological motion permanence, we recorded scalp EEG activity of sixteen subjects while they passively observed either biological or scrambled motion disappearing behind an occluder and reappearing. The moment of the occluder's appearance was either fixed or randomized. The statistical comparison between the biological and scrambled motion ERP waveforms revealed a modulation of activity in centro-parietal and right occipito-temporal regions during the occlusion phase when the biological motion disappearance was time-locked, possibly reflecting the recall of sensorimotor representations. These representations might allow the prediction of moving organisms in occlusion conditions. When the appearance of the occluder was unpredictable there was no difference between biological and scrambled motion either before or during occlusion, indicating that temporal prediction is relevant to the processing of biological motion permanence.


▸ The temporal dynamics of biological motion occlusion was addressed by means of EEG.


▸ Centro-parietal regions were recruited within the occlusion period.


▸ The results suggest that the brain enacts the occluded movement.

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