Action expertise reduces brain activity for audiovisual matching actions: An fMRI study with expert drummers

Karin Petrini, Frank E Pollick, Sofia Dahl, Phil McAleer, Lawrie S McKay, Lawrie McKay, Davide Rocchesso, Carl Haakon Waadeland, Scott Love, Federico Avanzini, Aina Puce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Citations (SciVal)


When we observe someone perform a familiar action, we can usually predict what kind of sound that action will produce. Musical actions are over-experienced by musicians and not by non-musicians, and thus offer a unique way to examine how action expertise affects brain processes when the predictability of the produced sound is manipulated. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan 11 drummers and 11 age- and gender-matched novices who made judgments on point-light drumming movements presented with sound. In Experiment 1, sound was synchronized or desynchronized with drumming strikes, while in Experiment 2 sound was always synchronized, but the natural covariation between sound intensity and velocity of the drumming strike was maintained or eliminated. Prior to MRI scanning, each participant completed psychophysical testing to identify personal levels of synchronous and asynchronous timing to be used in the two fMRI activation tasks. In both experiments, the drummers' brain activation was reduced in motor and action representation brain regions when sound matched the observed movements, and was similar to that of novices when sound was mismatched. This reduction in neural activity occurred bilaterally in the cerebellum and left parahippocampal gyrus in Experiment 1, and in the right inferior parietal lobule, inferior temporal gyrus, middle frontal gyrus and precentral gyrus in Experiment 2. Our results indicate that brain functions in action-sound representation areas are modulated by multimodal action expertise.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1480-92
Number of pages13
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2011


  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain
  • Cerebellum
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Skills
  • Music
  • Parahippocampal Gyrus
  • Parietal Lobe
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Prefrontal Cortex
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Psychophysics
  • Temporal Lobe
  • Young Adult


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