Abstract # 178:

Scheduled for Sunday, September 18, 2011 07:00 PM-09:00 PM: Session 23 (Salon G (Sixth Floor)) Poster Presentation


NEUROPHYSIOLOGICAL EVIDENCE FOR A MIRROR NEURON SYSTEM IN NEWBORN RHESUS MACAQUES

S. Bower1, P. F. Ferrari2,3,4, R. Vanderwert5, A. Paukner1, S. J. Suomi1 and N. A. Fox5
1Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Laboratory of Comparative Ethology, NIH Animal Center, 16701 Elmer School Road, Dickerson, Maryland 20842, USA, 2Dipartimento di Biologia Evolutiva e Funzionale, Università di Parma, Italy, 3Dipartimento di Neuroscienze, Università di Parma, Italy, 4IIT, Italian Institute of Technology, Parma, Italy, 5Department of Human Development University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA
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The ability of newborn infants to imitate complex social stimuli such as facial gestures has been demonstrated in humans and several other primate species. How the neonatal brain encodes such stimuli is not yet clear. The mirror neuron hypothesis suggests that observing and producing actions activates shared cortical motor representations. To explore this hypothesis, we used electroencephalography (EEG) to measure cortical activation during an imitation task in 21 newborn rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). We found a significant desynchronization of the 5-6 Hz frequency band recorded from electrodes positioned over anterior scalp locations during both observation and production of facial gestures but not while infants observed the biologically irrelevant stimulus of a rotating patterned disk (t-tests, alpha=0.05). These findings demonstrate the presence of a mu-rhythm in the newborn macaque brain which reflects activation of the sensorimotor cortex and may be an early signature of the mirror neuron mechanism.