The role of the early visual cortex in action
Functional magnetic resonance imaging has recently allowed showing that intended action modulates the sensory processing of object properties in areas of the action network in the human brain. In particular, intended actions can be decoded in the early visual cortex using multivoxel pattern analyses before the movements are initiated, regardless of whether the target object is visible or not. In addition, the foveal cortex is re-recruited during actions in the dark towards shapes that have been previously seen or touched. These results suggest four main points that I will address in my talk. First, the action-driven modulation of sensory processing is shown at the neural level in a network of areas that include the early visual cortex. Second, the role of the early visual cortex goes well beyond the processing of sensory information for perception and might be the target of reentrant feedback for sensory-motor integration. Third, the early visual cortex shows action-driven modulation during both action planning and execution, suggesting a continuous exchange of information with higher-order visual-motor areas for the production of a motor output. Fourth, the recruitment of the early visual cortex for action extends to senses other than vision, like touch.