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Journal Article

Smelling odors, understanding actions

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Tubaldi, F., Turella, L., Pierno, A., Grodd, W., Tirindelli, R., & Castiello, U. (2011). Smelling odors, understanding actions. Social Neuroscience, 6(1), 31-47. doi:10.1080/17470911003691089.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-F016-7
Previous evidence indicates that we understand others' actions not only by perceiving their visual features but also by their sound. This raises the possibility that brain regions responsible for action understanding respond to cues coming from different sensory modalities. Yet no studies, to date, have examined if this extends to olfaction. Here we addressed this issue by using functional magnetic resonance imaging. We searched for brain activity related to the observation of an action executed towards an object that was smelled rather than seen. The results show that temporal, parietal, and frontal areas were activated when individuals observed a hand grasping a smelled object. This activity differed from that evoked during the observation of a mimed grasp. Furthermore, superadditive activity was revealed when the action target-object was both seen and smelled. Together these findings indicate the influence of olfaction on action understanding and its contribution to multimodal action representations.