Vitality Forms Processing in the Insula during Action Observation: A Multivoxel Pattern Analysis

Giuseppe Di Cesare, Giancarlo Valente, Cinzia Di Dio, Emanuele Ruffaldi, Massimo Bergamasco, Rainer Goebel, Giacomo Rizzolatti*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Observing the style of an action done by others allows the observer to understand the cognitive state of the agent. This information has been defined by Stern "vitality forms". Previous experiments showed that the dorso-central insula is selectively active both during vitality form observation and execution. In the present study, we presented participants with videos showing hand actions performed with different velocities and asked them to judge either their vitality form (gentle, neutral, rude) or their velocity (slow, medium, fast). The aim of the present study was to assess, using multi-voxel pattern analysis, whether vitality forms and velocities of observed goal-directed actions are differentially processed in the insula, and more specifically whether action velocity is encoded per se or it is an element that triggers neural populations of the insula encoding the vitality form. The results showed that, consistently across subjects, in the dorsocentral sector of the insula there were voxels selectively tuned to vitality forms, while voxel tuned to velocity were rare. These results indicate that the dorso-central insula, which previous data showed to be involved in the vitality form processing, contains voxels specific for the action style processing.
Original languageEnglish
Article number267
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2016


  • vitality forms
  • insula cortex
  • MVPA
  • social interaction
  • action understanding

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