How your hand drives my eyes

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When viewing object-related hand actions people make proactive eye movements of the same kind as those made when performing such actions. Why is this so? It has been suggested that proactive gaze when viewing a given hand action depends on the recruitment of motor areas such as the ventral premotor (PMv) cortex that would be involved in the execution of that action. However, direct evidence for a distinctive role of the PMv cortex in driving gaze behavior is still lacking. We recorded eye moments while viewing hand actions before and immediately after delivering repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) over the left PMv and the posterior part of the left superior temporal sulcus, which is known to be involved in high-order visual action processing. Our results showed that rTMS-induced effects were selective with respect to the viewed actions following the virtual lesion of the left PMv only. This, for the first time, provides direct evidence that the PMv cortex might selectively contribute to driving the viewer’s gaze to the action’s target. When people view another’s action, their eyes may be driven by motor processes similar to those they would need to perform the action themselves.

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