The part of the brain that evaluates the use of an instrument is usually more focused on the hands than on the instruments.
Areas of the brain that play a role in hand visualization also respond to the proper use of tools, such as holding the spoon by the handle.
Previous studies have shown that different areas of the brain are activated when people look at photos of their hands compared to pictures of tools. But Stéphanie Rossit of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, and her colleagues have found that when it comes to gripping tools properly, the visual area for the hands is more important than the visual area for the tools.
The team scanned the brains of 20 people as they manipulated a spoon, knife and pizza cutter. Participants were also given elongated shapes that did not represent tools and were asked to grab the objects by the handles.
The researchers found that areas of the brain that specialize in hand visualization can determine if people have grasped the tool correctly. This was not true when participants grabbed objects that were not tools. The findings provide a better understanding of how the brain has evolved to support the use of tools – a defining feature of the human species.