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Keywords:

  • children;
  • imitation;
  • ‘mirror’ neurons;
  • imitation;
  • observation;
  • theta rhythm

Abstract

The purpose of the present study was to relate observations of biological motion to cortical activity by evaluation of the association of quantified electroencephalogram (qEEG) parameters with a video film projection. Thirty right-handed healthy children (2–8-year-olds) viewed a video film showing still shots and moving shots with human movement or object movement. The EEG was recorded while children watched the video movie and was then subjected to spectral analysis; the spectral powers for theta, alpha and beta bands were matched with corresponding sequences of video film. The power values of each frequency band were analysed in a four-way repeated-measures anova (Age × Hemisphere × Electrode × Sequence). Three main results were obtained: (i) younger children (2–4-year-olds) had higher power spectral values than older children (5–8-year-olds); (ii) greater EEG desynchronization of the left hemisphere was observed; (iii) observation of biological movement was related to a significant decrease in theta 1 and theta 2 power values of EEG in fronto-temporal and central regions of the left hemisphere compared with visual perception of still shots or nonhuman movement. These results indicated some support for the theory that the sensori-motor cortex and Broca's area are activated during visual observation of human motion.