Infants’ Somatotopic Neural Responses to Seeing Human Actions: I’ve Got You under My Skin
Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
AuthorSaby, Joni N
Meltzoff, Andrew N
Marshall, Peter J
Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory
Permanent link to this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12613/5423
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AbstractHuman infants rapidly learn new skills and customs via imitation, but the neural linkages between action perception and production are not well understood. Neuroscience studies in adults suggest that a key component of imitation-identifying the corresponding body part used in the acts of self and other-has an organized neural signature. In adults, perceiving someone using a specific body part (e.g., hand vs. foot) is associated with activation of the corresponding area of the sensory and/or motor strip in the observer's brain-a phenomenon called neural somatotopy. Here we examine whether preverbal infants also exhibit somatotopic neural responses during the observation of others' actions. 14-month-old infants were randomly assigned to watch an adult reach towards and touch an object using either her hand or her foot. The scalp electroencephalogram (EEG) was recorded and event-related changes in the sensorimotor mu rhythm were analyzed. Mu rhythm desynchronization was greater over hand areas of sensorimotor cortex during observation of hand actions and was greater over the foot area for observation of foot actions. This provides the first evidence that infants' observation of someone else using a particular body part activates the corresponding areas of sensorimotor cortex. We hypothesize that this somatotopic organization in the developing brain supports imitation and cultural learning. The findings connect developmental cognitive neuroscience, adult neuroscience, action representation, and behavioral imitation.
Citation to related workPublic Library of Science (PLoS)
Has partPLoS ONE
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