Left parietal cortex has been associated with the human-specific ability of sophisticated tool use. Yet, it is unclear how tool information is represented across senses. Here, we compared auditory and visual tool-specific activations within healthy human subjects to probe the relation of tool-specific networks, uni- and multisensory response properties, and functional and structural connectivity using functional and diffusion-weighted MRI. In each subject, we identified an auditory tool network with regions in left anterior inferior parietal cortex (aud-aIPL), bilateral posterior lateral sulcus, and left inferior precentral sulcus, and a visual tool network with regions in left aIPL (vis-aIPL) and bilateral inferior temporal gyrus. Aud-aIPL was largely separate and anterior/inferior from vis-aIPL, with varying degrees of overlap across subjects. Both regions displayed a strong preference for tools versus other stimuli presented within the same modality. Despite their modality preference, aud-aIPL and vis-aIPL and a region in left inferior precentral sulcus displayed multisensory response properties, as revealed in multivariate analyses. Thus, two largely separate tool networks are engaged by the visual and auditory modalities with nodes in parietal and prefrontal cortex potentially integrating information across senses. The diversification of tool processing in human parietal cortex underpins its critical role in complex object processing.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Anterior inferior parietal cortex
- Diffusion-weighted MRI