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How the brain perceives causality: an event-related fMRI study

Blakemore, Sarah-Jayne1, CA; Fonlupt, Pierre1; Pachot-Clouard, Mathilde2; Darmon, Céline1,2; Boyer, Pascal3; Meltzoff, Andrew N.4; Segebarth, Christoph2; Decety, Jean1,4

Brain Imaging

Detection of the causal relationships between events is fundamental for understanding the world around us. We report an event-related fMRI study designed to investigate how the human brain processes the perception of mechanical causality. Subjects were presented with mechanically causal events (in which a ball collides with and causes movement of another ball) and non-causal events (in which no contact is made between the balls). There was a significantly higher level of activation of V5/MT/MST bilaterally, the superior temporal sulcus bilaterally and the left intraparietal sulcus to causal relative to non-causal events. Directing attention to the causal nature of the stimuli had no significant effect on the neural processing of the causal events. These results support theories of causality suggesting that the perception of elementary mechanical causality events is automatically processed by the visual system.

1Brain Activation and Mental Processes, INSERM U280, Lyon 69424, Cedex 03; 2Unité Mixte INSERM/UJF U438, LRC CEA, Grenoble, France; 3College of Arts and Sciences, Washington University, St Louis, MO; 4Center for Mind, Brain and Learning, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

CACorresponding Author

Received 25 July 2001; accepted 24 September 2001

© 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.