Multiple routes to mental animation: Language and functional relations drive motion processing for static images

Kenny Coventry, Thomas Christophel, Thorsten Fehr, Berenice Valdés-Conroy, Manfred Herrmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


When looking at static visual images, people often exhibit mental animation, anticipating visual events that have not yet happened. But what determines when mental animation occurs? Measuring mental animation using localized brain function (visual motion processing; area MT+), we demonstrate that animating static pictures of objects is dependent both on the functionally-relevant spatial arrangement objects have with one another (e.g. a bottle above a glass versus a glass above a bottle), and the linguistic judgment to be made about those objects (e.g. Is the bottle above the glass? versus Is the bottle bigger than the glass?). Furthermore, we show that mental animation is driven by functional relations and language separately in the right hemisphere, but in interaction in the left brain. Mental animation is not a unitary construct; the predictions humans make about the visual world are driven flexibly, with hemispheric asymmetry in the routes to MT+ activation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1379-1388
Number of pages10
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • mental animation
  • motion processing
  • fMRI
  • language
  • hemispheric differences
  • visual perception
  • prediction
  • neuroimaging

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