Representational precision in visual cortex reveals outcome encoding and reward modulation during action preparation

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Abstract

According to ideomotor theory, goal-directed action involves the active perceptual anticipation of actions and their associated effects. We used multivariate analysis of fMRI data to test if preparation of an action promotes precision in the perceptual representation of the action. In addition, we tested how reward magnitude modulates this effect. Finally, we examined how expectation and uncertainty impact neural precision in the motor cortex. In line with our predictions, preparation of a hand or face action increased the precision of neural activation patterns in the extrastriate body area (EBA) and fusiform face area (FFA), respectively. The size of this effect of anticipation predicted individuals' efficiency at performing the prepared action. In addition, increasing reward magnitude increased the precision of perceptual representations in both EBA and FFA although this effect was limited to the group of participants that learned to associate face actions with high reward. Surprisingly, examination of representations in the hand motor cortex and face motor cortex yielded effects in the opposite direction. Our findings demonstrate that the precision of representations in visual and motor areas provides an important neural signature of the sensorimotor representations involved in goal-directed action.

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