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Neuropsychologia. 2010 Jul;48(9):2417-26. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.03.004. Epub 2010 Mar 11.

Sex and individual differences in induced and evoked EEG measures of action observation.

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1
Department of Psychology, Roehampton University, London, UK.

Abstract

We used two established methods for analysing the EEG response of the neurotypical adult human brain to examine the execution and observation of simple motor actions. In one, execution or observation of a button-press in response to a tone caused a decrease in the power at 8-13 Hz ("mu") frequencies. In the other, the response preparation (or the inferred response preparation when these actions are observed in another person) was measured by the averaged response time-locked potentials measured over motor cortex--the "readiness potential". Results indicated that the mirrored readiness potentials were bilaterally generated. We found sex differences for both measures. However, whereas females showed a greater degree of response for the mu power measure during the observation of movement only, males showed larger readiness potentials during both movement performance and observation. Both measures have been claimed to be neural correlates of mirror systems in the brain where processes responsible for actions are linked to the perception of such actions. Such mirror systems have also been implicated in higher order social cognition such as empathy. However, we found no correlations between either of our EEG measures and self-report scales of social cognition. The results imply sex differences in the measured systems and for mirroring that are not directly related to social cognition. We suggest that the results may indicate two dissociable motor mirroring systems that can be measured by induced and evoked EEG.

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