Neuropsychology Review

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 484–497 | Cite as

To Watch is to Work: a Review of NeuroImaging Data on Tool Use Observation Network

  • Emanuelle ReynaudEmail author
  • Jordan Navarro
  • Mathieu Lesourd
  • François Osiurak


Since the discovery of mirror neurons in the 1990s, many neuroimaging studies have tackled the issue of action observation with the aim of unravelling a putative homolog human system. However, these studies do not distinguish between non-tool-use versus tool-use actions, implying that a common brain network is systematically involved in the observation of any action. Here we provide evidence for a brain network dedicated to tool-use action observation, called the tool-use observation network, mostly situated in the left hemisphere, and distinct from the non-tool-use action observation network. Areas specific for tool-use action observation are the left cytoarchitectonic area PF within the left inferior parietal lobe and the left inferior frontal gyrus. The neural correlates associated with the observation of tool-use reported here offer new insights into the neurocognitive bases of action observation and tool use, as well as addressing more fundamental issues on the origins of specifically human phenomena such as cumulative technological evolution.


Tool use Action observation Left inferior parietal cortex Meta-analysis 



This work was supported by a grant from ANR (Agence Nationale pour la Recherche; Project “Cognition et économie liée à l’outil/Cognition and tool-use economy”, N°ANR-14-C230-0015-01), and was performed within the framework of the LABEX CORTEX (ANR-11-LABX-0042) of Université de Lyon, within the program “Investissements d’Avenir” (ANR-11-IDEX-0007) operated by the French National Research Agency (ANR).

Author Contribution Statement

E.R. and F.O. designed the study. E.R. and F.O. analyzed the data. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Competing Interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Supplementary material

11065_2019_9418_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (144 kb)
ESM 1(PDF 143 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire d’Etude des Mécanismes Cognitifs (EA 3082), Institut de PsychologieUniversité de LyonBron CedexFrance
  2. 2.Institut Universitaire de FranceParisFrance
  3. 3.Aix Marseille Univ, CNRS, LNC, Laboratoire de Neurosciences CognitivesMarseilleFrance
  4. 4.Aix Marseille Univ, CNRS, Fédération 3CMarseilleFrance

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