Functions and Development of the Mirror Neuron System
A fundamental issue in cognitive neuroscience is how the brain is able to encode others’ actions and intentions. One of the most important advances of our knowledge on how these processes can take place in the cortex is the discovery of mirror neurons.
The main conceptual breakthrough open by their discovery is that perceptual and motor processes share a common code. Based on their property of matching observed and executed actions, it has been hypothesized that they play a crucial role in understanding others’
actions and intentions (Gallese et al. 1996; Rizzolatti et al. 1996; Rizzolatti et al. 2001; Fogassi et al. 2005) by exploiting the motor representations that would be activated, at cortical level, during action observation.
Although still controversial, the covert activation of the motor system during the observation of an action has led to interpret it not only as an indirect evidence of a recognition process occurring in the brain, but also as a mean to repeat the observed action.
This has prompted the idea that MNs might serve also other important functions in social cognition such as imitation.
Discovery of the MNs was accomplished with electrophysiological approaches of single cell recording. Since that time, there have been attempts to identify MN activity in the human brain via the electroencephalogram (EEG) and with functional neuroimaging (fMRI).
These studies have examined action-perception relations in both human adults and infants. By and large studies utilizing EEG have focused on the mu rhythm recorded over central scalp locations.
In our program project grant we will study the development of the mirror neuron system using high density EEG recorded from human infants, children, and adults, and non-human primates as they watch and perform specific actions. We will examine mu rhythm suppression
as a putative measure of the mirror system and map its development and relation to behavior. Please visit the program project website here.
For more information please email:
Dr. Nathan A. Fox
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