Intention to imitate: Top-down effects on 4-year-olds' neural processing of others' actions
SourceDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 45, (2020), article 100851
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ DCC CO
Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience
SubjectAction, intention, and motor control
From early in life, we activate our neural motor system when observing others' actions. In adults, this so-called mirroring is modulated not only by the saliency of an action but also by top-down processes, like the intention to imitate it. Yet, it remains unknown whether neural processing of others' actions can be modulated by top-down processes in young children who heavily rely on learning from observing and imitating others but also still develop top-down control skills. Using EEG, we examined whether the intention to imitate increases 4-year-olds’ motor activation while observing others' actions. In a within-subjects design, children observed identical actions preceded by distinct instructions, namely to either imitate the action or to name the toy's color. As motor activation index, children's alpha (7-12 Hz) and beta (16-20 Hz) power over motor cortices was analyzed. The results revealed more motor activity reflected by significantly lower beta power for the Imitation compared to the Color-naming Task. The same conditional difference, although differently located, was detected for alpha power. Together, our results show that children's neural processing of others' actions was amplified by their intention to imitate the action. Thus, already at age 4 top-down attention to others’ actions can modulate neural action processing.
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