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.

Public Health Relevance

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.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Research Program Projects (P01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZHD1)
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Maryland College Park
College Park
United States
Zip Code
Cuevas, Kimberly; Cannon, Erin N; Yoo, Kathryn et al. (2014) The Infant EEG Mu Rhythm: Methodological Considerations and Best Practices. Dev Rev 34:26-43
Simpson, Elizabeth A; Jakobsen, Krisztina V; Fragaszy, Dorothy M et al. (2014) The development of facial identity discrimination through learned attention. Dev Psychobiol 56:1083-101
Simpson, Elizabeth A; Murray, Lynne; Paukner, Annika et al. (2014) The mirror neuron system as revealed through neonatal imitation: presence from birth, predictive power and evidence of plasticity. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 369:20130289
Cannon, Erin N; Yoo, Kathryn H; Vanderwert, Ross E et al. (2014) Action experience, more than observation, influences mu rhythm desynchronization. PLoS One 9:e92002
Coudé, G; Vanderwert, R E; Thorpe, S et al. (2014) Frequency and topography in monkey electroencephalogram during action observation: possible neural correlates of the mirror neuron system. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 369:20130415
Simpson, Elizabeth A; Sclafani, Valentina; Paukner, Annika et al. (2014) Inhaled oxytocin increases positive social behaviors in newborn macaques. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 111:6922-7
Gerson, Sarah A; Woodward, Amanda L (2014) The joint role of trained, untrained, and observed actions at the origins of goal recognition. Infant Behav Dev 37:94-104
Ferrari, Pier Francesco; Rizzolatti, Giacomo (2014) Mirror neuron research: the past and the future. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 369:20130169
Woodward, Amanda L; Gerson, Sarah A (2014) Mirroring and the development of action understanding. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 369:20130181
Gerson, Sarah A; Woodward, Amanda L (2014) Labels Facilitate Infants' Comparison of Action Goals. J Cogn Dev 15:197-212

Showing the most recent 10 out of 32 publications