Neural adaptation in pSTS correlates with perceptual aftereffects to biological motion and with autistic traits

Steven M. Thurman, Jeroen J. A. van Boxtel, Martin M. Monti, Jeffrey N. Chiang, Hongjing Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


The adaptive nature of biological motion perception has been documented in behavioral studies, with research showing that prolonged viewing of an action can bias judgments of subsequent actions towards the opposite of its attributes. However, the neural mechanisms underlying action adaptation aftereffects remain unknown. We examined adaptation-induced changes in brain responses to an ambiguous action after adapting to walking or running actions within two bilateral regions of interest: 1) human middle temporal area (hMT+), a lower-level motion-sensitive region of cortex, and 2) posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS), a higher-level action-selective area. We found a significant correlation between neural adaptation strength in right pSTS and perceptual aftereffects to biological motion measured behaviorally, but not in hMT+. The magnitude of neural adaptation in right pSTS was also strongly correlated with individual differences in the degree of autistic traits. Participants with more autistic traits exhibited less adaptation-induced modulations of brain responses in right pSTS and correspondingly weaker perceptual aftereffects. These results suggest a direct link between perceptual aftereffects and adaptation of neural populations in right pSTS after prolonged viewing of a biological motion stimulus, and highlight the potential importance of this brain region for understanding differences in social-cognitive processing along the autistic spectrum.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-161
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016


  • Action aftereffects
  • Autism
  • FMRI adaptation
  • Human actions
  • Perceptual adaptation

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