Modulation of the N30 generators of the somatosensory evoked potentials by the mirror neuron system

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Abstract

The N30 component of the somatosensory evoked potential is known to be modulated by sensory interference, motor action, movement ideation and observation. We introduce a new paradigm in which the observation task of another person's hand movement triggers the somatosensory stimulus, inducing the N30 response in participants. In order to identify the possible contribution of the mirror neuron network (MNN) to this early sensorimotor processing, we analyzed the N30 topography, the event-related spectral perturbation and the inter-trial coherence on single electroencephalogram (EEG) trials, and we applied swLORETA to localize the N30 sources implicated in the time–frequency domain at rest and during observation, as well as the generators differentiating these two contextual brain states. We found that N30 amplitude increase correlated with increased contralateral precentral alpha, frontal beta, and contralateral frontal gamma power spectrum, and with central and precentral alpha and parietal beta phase-locking of ongoing EEG signals. We demonstrate specific activation of the contralateral post-central and parietal cortex where the angular gyrus (BA39), an important MNN node, is implicated in this enhancement during observation. We conclude that this part of the MNN, involved in proprioceptive processing and more complex body-action representations, is already active prior to somatosensory input and may enhance N30.

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