Imitation Of Body Configurations

Imitation is the motor replication of a visually perceived action. The translation of a perceived action into an executed action requires more than a translation from visual percepts to motor commands. It requires that an action performed by someone else be translated into an equivalent action by oneself. To do this, one must create equivalence between another person's and one's own actions and hence between another person's and one's own body. The need to recognize the communality between another person's and one's own body becomes particularly salient when imitation is examined for pointing to body parts or for meaningless gestures. Because these gestures have neither a conventional shape nor an external referent, they are defined solely as a particular configuration of the body.

In this section, I discuss autotopagnosia, finger agnosia, and defective imitation of meaningless gestures in apraxia. Autotopagnosia and finger agnosia affect the ability to select single body parts corresponding to those shown on a model. Imitation of meaningless gestures tests the ability to translate a configuration of several body parts from a model to one's own body. Although caused by unilateral brain damage, all these disorders affect both sides of the body equally.

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