Sensory-motor brain dynamics reflect architectural affordances

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Anticipating meaningful actions in the environment is an essential function of the brain. Such predictive mechanisms originate from the motor system and allow for inferring actions from environmental affordances, the potential to act within a specific environment. Using architecture, we provide a unique perspective to the abiding debate in cognitive neuroscience and philosophy on whether cognition depends on movement or is decoupled from our physical structure. To investigate cognitive processes associated with architectural affordances, we used a Mobile Brain/Body Imaging approach recording brain activity synchronized to head-mounted virtual reality. Participants perceived and acted upon virtual transitions ranging from non-passable to easily passable. We demonstrate that early sensory brain activity, upon revealing the environment and before actual movement, differed as a function of affordances. Additionally, movement through transitions was preceded by a motor-related negative component also depended on affordances. Our results suggest that potential actions afforded by an environment influence perception.
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