Training the human mirror neuron system: An EEG study
Victoria Brunsdon1, Elisabeth Bradford1, Laura Smith1, Heather Ferguson1; 1University of Kent
When we see another person trip over, we can’t help but to wince in pain, mirroring the experience of the other person. This mirroring of actions is performed by a specialised system of neurons found in the motor cortex, forming the mirror neuron system. This study investigated whether experience with hand actions modulates the activity of the mirror neuron system using EEG mu suppression as an index of the mirror neuron system. Initially, all participants completed a pre-task, with a 2-minute resting-state EEG as a reference period, followed by videos of unfamiliar hand actions and static hands. Subsequently, 28 participants completed execution training, and 29 participants completed observation-only training. In the execution training, participants performed the unfamiliar hand actions. In the observation training, participants observed the unfamiliar hand actions being performed. In addition, the frequency of training of each action was varied. Lastly, all participants completed a post-task that was identical to the pre-task. The activation of the mirror neuron system was different dependent on the training conditions. The activity of the mirror neuron system either increased (alpha 8-13Hz) or stayed the same (beta 13-35Hz) from pre- to post- when executing the actions, whereas the activity reduced from pre- to post- when merely observing actions. The frequency of training did not impact on post alpha, suggesting that differences in action familiarity do not modulate mirror neuron activity. This study suggests that practical experience with actions activates the mirror neuron system, and this is not based on familiarity with specific actions.
Topic Area: PERCEPTION & ACTION: Motor control