Understanding the neurophysiology of action interpretation in right and left-handed individuals
Kelly, Rachel Louise
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Investigating the neurophysiology behind our action encoding system offers a way of probing the underlying mechanisms regarding how we understand seen action. The ability to mentally simulate action (motor simulation) is a strong proposal to understand how we interpret others’ actions. The process of how we generate accurate motor simulations is proposed to be reliant on the context of the movement and sensory feedback from the limb. However, the neurophysiological mechanisms behind motor simulation are not yet understood. Known motor physiology for right-handed individuals show there is a left parietal-frontal network for the mental simulation of skilled movements; however, it remains unclear whether this is due to right limb dominance of the observer’s motor system because action simulation research has been focused primarily on right-handed individuals. The goal of this dissertation is to understand the underlying neurophysiology of the motor simulation process during action encoding. Generally, we propose different strategies of action simulation between right and left handed individuals. More specifically, we propose that right-handed individuals rely on their motor dominant left hemisphere for action encoding and motor simulation, while left-handed individuals will rely on their motor dominant right hemisphere. We will test this by evaluating neurobehavioral patterns of potential symmetry and asymmetry of motor simulation and action encoding based on patterns of limb dominance. We will also evaluate how impaired sensory feedback affects motor simulations, which can reveal how limb state affects the simulation process. The results of this series of studies will fill a void in our basic understanding of the motor simulation process and may generalize to populations with upper limb functional loss. Specifically, those with different hand dominance may require different rehabilitation programs in order to retrain an affected limb.