Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has been used widely in research investigating corticospinal (CS) excitability during action observation. Generally, this work has shown that observation of an action performed by others, in the absence of overt movement, modulates the excitability of the CS pathway in humans. Despite the extent of the literature exploring action observation effects, however, there has been little research to date that has compared observation with the combination of observation and execution directly. Here, we report a single-pulse TMS study that investigated whether CS excitability during action observation was modulated by actions performed by the observers prior to viewing a ball pinching action. The results showed that CS excitability during action observation increased when compared to observation of a static hand, but that there was no additional motor facilitation when participants performed the same action prior to observing it. Our findings highlight the importance of action observation and its consequences on the CS system, whilst also illustrating the limited effect of prior action execution on the CS pathway for a simple action task.
- action observation
- transcranial magnetic stimulation
- observation–execution network
- mirror system
- training effect
- motor facilitation