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The infant mirror neuron system studied with high density EEG
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
2008 (English)In: Social Neuroscience, ISSN 1747-0919, Vol. 3, no 3-4, 334-347 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The mirror neuron system has been suggested to play a role in many social capabilities such as action understanding, imitation, language and empathy. These are all capabilities that develop during infancy and childhood, but the human mirror neuron system has been poorly studied using neurophysiological measures. This study measured the brain activity of 6-month-old infants and adults using a high-density EEG net with the aim of identifying mirror neuron activity. The subjects viewed both goal-directed movements and non-goal-directed movements. An independent component analysis was used to extract the sources of cognitive processes. The desynchronization of the mu rhythm in adults has been shown to be a marker for activation of the mirror neuron system and was used as a criterion to categorize independent components between subjects. The result is showed significant mu desynchronization in the adult group and significantly higher ERP activation in both adults and 6-month-olds for the goal-directed action observation condition. This study demonstrate that infants as young as 6 months display mirror neuron activity and is the first to present a direct ERP measure of the mirror neuron system in infants.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. Vol. 3, no 3-4, 334-347 p.
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-97379DOI: 10.1080/17470910701563665ISI: 000261589800012OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-97379DiVA: diva2:172300
Available from: 2008-08-18 Created: 2008-08-18 Last updated: 2009-07-10Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. From Motion to Movements: Revelations by the Infant EEG
Open this publication in new window or tab >>From Motion to Movements: Revelations by the Infant EEG
2008 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The introduction of high density EEG (hd-EEG) nets for easy application on subjects of all ages has improved the possibilities to investigate the development of the infant neurophysiology. This dissertation consists of three studies (I – III) that investigate the visual motion system and mirror neuron system of the infant, and methodological sections that outline the bioelectrical background and the characteristics of the methods used.

Study I covers the maturation of cortical areas involved in motion perception in adults and infants using an ERP paradigm. Over three age groups (2, 3 and 5 month olds) the cortical activation increased dramatically. All infant groups showed significant activation when moving displays was contrasted to static displays on a video screen. The study shows that 5-month-old infants and older can be expected to process motion in a similar fashion as adults.

Study II covers the infant mirror neuron system (MNS). In adults the mu rhythm perturbations is considered a reliable measure of activation of the MNS. This study presented both a mu rhythm analysis and a ERP analysis to detect MNS activity in 6-month-olds and in adults. This study concludes that the infant MNS can be measured using ERPs and that the development of mu rhythm perturbations requires further study.

Study III focused on exploring the mu rhythm suppressions. 8-month-olds observed a live actor that performed goal directed reaches and non-goal directed hand movements. The results show robust mu rhythm perturbations time-locked to the grasping moment. The study concluded that the MNS activity is possible to evaluate by analysis of mu rhythm perturbations and that the MNS show mature characteristics at the age of 8 months.

In summary, Study 2 and 3 present new methods to investigate the infant mirror neuron system and shows that the infant MNS is active at 6 months of age. At 8 months of age the infant MNS show mature EEG responses to simple actions such as reaching. How the MNS development relates to the infants’ motor development, and how the MNS interacts with the development of social skills requires further studies that could benefit from the methods presented here.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2008. 87 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, ISSN 1652-9030 ; 41
Psychology, infant, brain, EEG, mirror neurons, ERP, ICA, MNS, Psykologi
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-9067 (URN)978-91-554-7243-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2008-09-08, Sal IV, Universitetshuset, Övre Slottsgatan 2, Uppsala, 13:15
Available from: 2008-08-18 Created: 2008-08-18Bibliographically approved

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