Functions and Development of the Mirror Neuron System

September 22, 2015 (Noon–1 p.m.)


Child Development and Behavior Branch (CDBB), Division of Extramural Research (DER), NICHD


6100 Executive Boulevard, 4B01 Conference Room, Bethesda, Maryland


Nathan Fox, Ph.D. External Web Site Policy, from the University of Maryland College Park, will present about his work on the mirror neuron system. Mirror neurons are active both when performing an action, and when observing someone else doing that same action. Dr. Fox will describe his work on the mirror neuron system and the possible role(s) of the system in social cognition.

Since the discovery of mirror neurons in non-human primates, many have hypothesized a similar neural system in humans that encodes representations of self- and others’ actions. Though obvious technical challenges limit the ability to identify and record from single neurons in humans, neuroimaging methods have allowed researchers to identify patterns of brain activity that are engaged during both action observation and execution. In particular, changes in EEG amplitude in the mu alpha frequency have been used to identify neural mirroring in human infants, children, adults, and special populations.  There are, however, a number of conceptual and methodological issues regarding the existence of and methods used to assess a mirror system in humans that have limited progress in this field.

Over the past 4 years, as part of an NICHD-supported program project, Dr. Fox and his colleagues addressed these conceptual and methodological issues, with the following accomplishments:

  • Recorded EEG and single-cell mirror neuron activity in the awake behavior adult Rhesus macaque
  • Utilized EEG methods during the execution and observation of simple motor tasks in human infants to assess neural mirroring
  • Characterized the developmental course of mu event-related desynchronization (ERD) across infancy and its links to action perception systems
  • Reported associations between the emergence of infant motor skill and mu ERD

Together these data lay the foundation for future studies that assess motor responses and the emergence of social cognition across development.

This presentation is part of the Advances in Child Development and Behavior Research Speaker Series, supported by the CDBB.

This event is open to the public, but seating is limited; please RSVP to Laureen Lee no later than September 18, 2015.

If you require a sign language interpreter and/or other reasonable accommodations, please contact Laureen Lee.


Laureen Lee, CDBB, DER, NICHD
Tel: (301) 402–5261

Please note: Views expressed during NICHD-sponsored events do not necessarily reflect the opinions or the official positions of NICHD, NIH, or HHS.
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