A fundamental issue in cognitive neuroscience is how the brain is able to encode others'actions and intentions. In this perspective 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. The proposed research will investigate, with non-invasive electroencephalography methods, the emergence of the MN system in infancy and young children. It will compare the EEG activity depicted by specific frequency bands in infants with that of children and adults in which the MNs has been widely studied. Acquisition of EEG will be combined with a careful behavioral assessment of subjects in order to test the hypothesis that MNs are at the basis of specific matching behaviors that are important landmarks in the development of perception action relations. We will as well, carry out experiments in non-human primates to identify these EEG rhythms in infant Rhesus Macaque and to link, for the first time, single cell recordings of mirror neurons to the ongoing EEG.
The study of the MNs development is largely unexplored. Here we propose to investigate the emergence of this system in relation to important behavioral-cognitive skills by means of neurophysiological measurements. The findings will be central for understanding the neural mechanisms underlying action understanding and imitation, which are fundamental elements of social cognitive development.
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