Cognitive empathy and motor activity during observed actions

Milston, Sashenka I., Vanman, Eric J. and Cunnington, Ross (2013) Cognitive empathy and motor activity during observed actions. Neuropsychologia, 51 6: 1103-1108. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2013.02.020

Author Milston, Sashenka I.
Vanman, Eric J.
Cunnington, Ross
Title Cognitive empathy and motor activity during observed actions
Journal name Neuropsychologia   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0028-3932
Publication date 2013-05-01
Year available 2013
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2013.02.020
Volume 51
Issue 6
Start page 1103
End page 1108
Total pages 6
Place of publication Kidlington, Oxford, United Kingdom
Publisher Pergamon
Language eng
Abstract Whether empathy depends on activation of the mirror neuron system is controversial. This study tested the relationship between cognitive empathy and motor activation during action observation through the sensorimotor system. EEG activity was recorded over the motor area while participants observed and then performed a task demonstrated by a model. Analyses revealed significant suppression in mu/alpha (8-12. Hz) and beta (18-22. Hz) EEG bands, indicative of sensorimotor activity, during both observed and executed actions. Crucially, participants rating higher in perspective taking as a measure of trait cognitive empathy showed significantly less beta suppression when observing actions. The direction of this relationship, contrary to studies involving induced emotional empathy, may reflect individual differences in mentalizing and mirroring mechanisms to understand others' actions. Implications of these findings for the hypothesised empathy-mirror neuron system link are discussed.
Keyword Mu
Perspective taking
Mirror neuron system
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Available online: 13 March 2013.

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Queensland Brain Institute Publications
Official 2014 Collection
School of Psychology Publications
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