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      Assessing Human Mirror Activity With EEG Mu Rhythm: A Meta-Analysis

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          Abstract

          A fundamental issue in cognitive neuroscience is how the brain encodes others’ actions and intentions. In recent years, a potential advance in our knowledge on this issue is the discovery of mirror neurons in the motor cortex of the nonhuman primate. These neurons fire to both execution and observation of specific types of actions. Researchers use this evidence to fuel investigations of a human mirror system, suggesting a common neural code for perceptual and motor processes. Among the methods used for inferring mirror system activity in humans are changes in a particular frequency band in the electroencephalogram (EEG) called the mu rhythm. Mu frequency appears to decrease in amplitude (reflecting cortical activity) during both action execution and action observation. The current meta-analysis reviewed 85 studies (1,707 participants) of mu that infer human mirror system activity. Results demonstrated significant effect sizes for mu during execution (Cohen’s d = 0.46, N = 701) as well as observation of action (Cohen’s d = 0.31, N = 1,508), confirming a mirroring property in the EEG. A number of moderators were examined to determine the specificity of these effects. We frame these meta-analytic findings within the current discussion about the development and functions of a human mirror system, and conclude that changes in EEG mu activity provide a valid means for the study of human neural mirroring. Suggestions for improving the experimental and methodological approaches in using mu to study the human mirror system are offered.

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          Author and article information

          Contributors
          Journal
          0376473
          6774
          Psychol Bull
          Psychol Bull
          Psychological bulletin
          0033-2909
          1939-1455
          5 November 2016
          21 December 2015
          March 2016
          15 November 2016
          : 142
          : 3
          : 291-313
          Affiliations
          University of Maryland
          Leiden University
          University of Maryland
          University of Maryland
          University of Maryland
          Cardiff University
          University of Parma
          Leiden University
          Author notes
          Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Nathan A. Fox, Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology, University of Maryland, 3304 Benjamin Building, College Park, MD 20742. fox@ 123456umd.edu

          Nathan A. Fox, Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology, University of Maryland; Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg, Centre for Child and Family Studies, Leiden University; Kathryn H. Yoo, Lindsay C. Bowman, and Erin N. Cannon, Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology, University of Maryland; Ross E. Vanderwert, School of Psychology, Cardiff University; Pier F. Ferrari, Department of Neuroscience, University of Parma; Marinus H. van IJzendoorn, Centre for Child and Family Studies, Leiden University.

          Article
          PMC5110123 PMC5110123 5110123 nihpa828034
          10.1037/bul0000031
          5110123
          26689088
          Categories
          Article

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