Does focusing on hand-grasping intentions modulate electroencephalogram μ and α suppressions?

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Abstract

Understanding the intentions of others presumably involves a human analog of the mirror neuron system. A putative marker of such mirror activity is the suppression of electroencephalographic oscillations in the 8–12 Hz range, which, when recorded over somatosensory areas, is associated with motor activity and labeled μ rhythms. We investigated whether μ-suppression can be modulated by attention to another person's intention as expressed by her hand movement toward an object and whether this suppression is distinguished from the suppression of α waves that oscillate in the same frequency range and are modulated by attention and cognitive load. Both μ and α suppressions were modulated by task difficulty, and not distinctively by intention, reflecting the recruitment of resources needed for task performance.

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