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Brain Res. 2009 Jul 28;1282:126-32. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2009.05.059. Epub 2009 Jun 3.

Mirror activity in the human brain while observing hand movements: a comparison between EEG desynchronization in the mu-range and previous fMRI results.

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Department of Psychology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 91905, Israel.


Mu (mu) rhythms are EEG oscillations between 8-13 Hz distinguished from alpha by having more anterior distribution and being desynchronized by motor rather than visual activity. Evidence accumulating during the last decade suggests that the desynchronization of mu rhythms (mu suppression) might be also a manifestation of a human Mirror Neuron System (MNS). To further explore this hypothesis we used a paradigm that, in a previous fMRI study, successfully activated this putative MNS in humans. Our direct goal was to provide further support for a link between modulation of mu rhythms and the MNS, by finding parallels between the reported patterns of fMRI activations and patterns of mu suppression. The EEG power in the mu range has been recorded while participants passively observed either a left or a right hand, reaching to and grasping objects, and compared it with that recorded while participants observed the movement of a ball, and while observing static grasping scenes or still objects. Mirroring fMRI results (Shmuelof, L., Zohary, E., 2005. Dissociation between ventral and dorsal fMRI activation during object and action recognition. Neuron 47, 457-470), mu suppression was larger in the hemisphere contra-lateral to the moving hand and larger when the hands grasped different objects in different ways than when the movement was repetitive. No suppression was found while participants observed still objects but mu suppression was also found while seeing static grasping postures. These data are discussed in light of similar parallels between modulations of alpha waves and fMRI while recording EEG in the magnet. The present data support a link between mu suppression and a human MNS.

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