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Angie Eunji Huh, Susan Jones, Karin James; The neural correlates of imitation in children. Journal of Vision 2010;10(7):472. doi: 10.1167/10.7.472.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
This study examines the association between action and perception in the development of the human mirror system (HMS) in children from 4-7 years of age. Imitation is one mechanism that may promote associations between action and perception in the developing brain. Neuroimaging studies on adults have found activation of the same 3 areas in the brain, termed the Human Mirror System, both when participants imitate an action and when they are imitated. Using fMRI, we compared neural activation patterns in children during action production and observation both in isolation and in the context of imitation. We hypothesized that because both perception and action are required for imitation, the HMS will not be recruited during action or perception alone. Results revealed no overlapping activation in the 3 core areas of the HMS during observations and production of the same actions in isolation. In addition, the children's response pattern during imitation was somewhat different than the pattern previously shown in adults. Unlike adults, children showed no activation in the inferior parietal lobule during imitation tasks, but similar to adults, did recruit the inferior frontal gyrus and the superior temporal sulcus. These results demonstrate that imitation recruits different brain systems in the adult than in the child. We speculate that imitation recruits a temporal-parietal-frontal pathway in adults and a more direct temporal-frontal pathway in the child.
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