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Mirror neurons system engagement in late adolescents and adults while viewing emotional gestures

By Emilie Salvia, Morit Suss, Ruxandra Tivadar, Sarah Harkness and Marie-Helene Grosbras

Abstract

Observing others’ actions enhances muscle-specific cortico-spinal excitability, reflecting\ud putative mirror neurons activity. The exposure to emotional stimuli also modulates\ud cortico-spinal excitability. We investigated how those two phenomena might interact\ud when they are combined, i.e., while observing a gesture performed with an emotion,\ud and whether they change during the transition between adolescence and adulthood, a\ud period of social and brain maturation. We delivered single-pulse transcranial magnetic\ud stimulation (TMS) over the hand area of the left primary motor cortex of 27 healthy adults\ud and adolescents and recorded their right first dorsal interossus (FDI) muscle activity (i.e.,\ud motor evoked potential – MEP), while they viewed either videos of neutral or angry hand\ud actions and facial expressions, or neutral objects as a control condition. We reproduced\ud the motor resonance and the emotion effects – hand-actions and emotional stimuli\ud induced greater cortico-spinal excitability than the faces/control condition and neutral\ud videos, respectively. Moreover, the influence of emotion was present for faces but not\ud for hand actions, indicating that the motor resonance and the emotion effects might be\ud non-additive. While motor resonance was observed in both groups, the emotion effect\ud was present only in adults and not in adolescents. We discuss the possible neural bases\ud of these findings

Publisher: Frontiers Media
Year: 2016
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.gla.ac.uk:122559
Provided by: Enlighten

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