Smooth social interactions require a deep understanding of others' intentions and feelings. In the present study, to investigate brain regions that respond to inference of others' effort level, we recorded brain activity during action observation of different effort levels using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). We used a dumbbell curl movement to depict a movement requiring effort. To dissociate the factors of effort level of the actor and weight of the dumbbell, we used four combinations of dumbbell weight and actor physique: a thin actor or a built actor lifting a heavy or light dumbbell. During observation of dumbbell curls, the bilateral front-parietal action observation network (AON) was activated. This included the premotor cortices, parietal cortices, visual areas 5/superior temporal cortices (STS), amygdalae, hippocampi, right dorsolateral and ventrolateral frontal cortices. When we evaluated brain regions associated with the actor's effort level, activity in the right temporoparietal junction (TPJ) and STS was observed. However, activity in the front-parietal AON was independent of the actor's effort during action observation. This finding suggests that the right TPJ and STS play an important role in the inference of others' effort levels during the observation of others' movements.
ASJC Scopus subject areas