I began research examining brain processes underlying the preparation for voluntary action during my PhD at Monash University. I moved to the University of Vienna as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in 1998 where I began research with functional MRI brain imaging, examining the supplementary motor area and it's contribution to the planning and readiness for action. I returned to Melbourne as a Senior Research Fellow at the Howard Florey Institute in 2001, joining the Neuroimaging and Neuroinformatics Lab.
Research of my group focuses on the brain processes involved in the planning and preparation for action and in the perception and imitation of others' actions.
Whenever we plan, imagine, or observe someone else performing an action, our own motor system responsible for representing and executing the action are also involved. The higher motor areas, the supplementary motor area and premotor cortex, are thought to play an important role in planning and maintaining readiness for action prior to movement initiation. The inferior parietal cortex and premotor cortex are key parts of a "mirror neuron" system that is thought to link the visual processing of observed actions and the motor system, important for understanding and imitating others' actions.
Research in my lab focuses on the brain processes crucial for planning and representing actions prior to initiation, for imitating actions, and for perceiving and understanding the actions of others.
Attention and the readiness for action.
Activity of premotor and supplementary motor areas begins up to 2 s prior to voluntary movement. We are examining the cognitive and "intentional" processes that precede the initiation of voluntary movement, in readiness for action.
Perception and imitation of others' actions.
The human mirror system is thought to provide a mechanism for directly matching observed actions to equivalent motor representations in the motor system, linking visual and motor areas. We are examining how the observation of others' actions can influence our own motor system and our performance of movement, and how our own plans for action can influence our visual processing and perception of others' actions.
Techniques used in the lab
Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- 3T MRI scanner (Siemens Trio) on campus for Cognitive Neuroscience research (with concurrent EEG, eye-tracking, physiological monitoring, infra-red motion capture)
- 4 Tesla Siemens/Bruker MRI scanner at the Wesley Hospital
- Image Analysis Lab with FSL, SPM software on QBI's high performance computing infrastructure
EEG Event-related potentials (ERPs)
- 128-channel BioSemi EEG system in School of Psychology
- 64-channel BioSemi EEG system in Queensland Brain Institute
- 64-channel BrainAmp MR (Brain Products) for concurrent EEG-fMRI studies
- BESA and Analyzer2 software for EEG analysis and source localisation
- Baker KS, Mattingley JB, Chambers CD, Cunnington R. Attention and the readiness for action. Neuropsychologia, in press.
- Molenberghs P, Hayward L, Mattingley JB, and Cunnington R. Activation patterns during action observation are modulated by context in mirror system areas. Neuroimage, in press.
- Molenberghs P, Cunnington R, and Mattingley JB. Brain regions with mirror properties: a meta-analysis of 125 human fMRI studies. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, in press.
- Sladky R, Friston KJ, Tröstl J, Cunnington R, Moser E, and Windischberger C. Slice-timing effects and their correction in functional MRI. Neuroimage, accepted 26-6-2011.
- Bortoletto M, Lemonis MJ, Cunnington R. The role of arousal in the preparation for voluntary movement. Biological Psychology, 2011, 87: 372-378.
- Bortoletto M, Mattingley JB, Cunnington R. Action intentions modulate visual processing during action perception. Neuropsychologia, 2011. 49: 2097-2104.
- Bortoletto M, Cook A, Cunnington R. Motor timing and the preparation for sequential actions. Brain and Cognition, 2011, 75: 196-204.
- Silk TJ, Bellgrove MA, Wrafter P, Mattingley JB, Cunnington R. Spatial working memory and spatial attention rely on common neural processes in the intraparietal sulcus. Neuroimage, 2010, 53: 718-724.
- Bortoletto M, Cunnington R. Motor timing and motor sequencing contribute differently to the preparation for voluntary movement. Neuroimage, 2010, 49: 3338-3348.
- Molenberghs P, Brander C, Mattingley JB, Cunnington R. The role of the superior temporal sulcus and the mirror neuron system in imitation. Human Brain Mapping, 2010, 31: 1316-1326.
- Silk TJ, Vance A, Rinehart N, Bradshaw JL, Cunnington R. White-matter abnormalities in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: A diffusion tensor imaging study. Human Brain Mapping, 2009, 30: 2757-2765.
- Molenberghs P, Cunnington R, Mattingley JB. Is the mirror neuron system involved in imitation? A short review and meta-analysis. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 2009, 33: 975-980.
- Chong TT-J, Cunnington R, Williams MA, and Mattingley JB. The role of selective attention in matching observed and executed actions. Neuropsychologia, 2009, 47: 786-795.
- Chong TT-J, Cunnington R, Williams MA, Kanwisher N, and Mattingley JB. fMRI adaptation reveals mirror neurons in human inferior parietal cortex. Current Biology, 2008, 18: 1576-1580.
- Chong T-J, Williams MA, Cunnington R, and Mattingley JB. Selective attention modulates inferior frontal gyrus activity during action observation. Neuroimage, 2008, 40: 298-307.