Relations between infants' emerging reach-grasp competence and event-related desynchronization in EEG

Erin N. Cannon, Elizabeth A. Simpson, Nathan A. Fox, Ross E. Vanderwert, Amanda L. Woodward, Pier F. Ferrari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Recent reports of similar patterns of brain electrical activity (electroencephalogram: EEG) during action execution and observation, recorded from scalp locations over motor-related regions in infants and adults, have raised the possibility that two foundational abilities - controlling one's own intentional actions and perceiving others' actions - may be integrally related during ontogeny. However, to our knowledge, there are no published reports of the relations between developments in motor skill (i.e. recording actual motor skill performance) and EEG during both action execution and action observation. In the present study we collected EEG from 21 9-month-olds who were given opportunities to reach for toys and who also observed an experimenter reach for toys. Event-related desynchronization (ERD) was computed from the EEG during the reaching events. We assessed infants' reaching-grasping competence, including reach latency, errors, preshaping of the hand, and bimanual reaches, and found that desynchronization recorded in scalp electrodes over motor-related regions during action observation was associated with action competence during execution. Infants who were more competent reachers, compared to less competent reachers, exhibited greater ERD while observing reaching-grasping. These results provide initial evidence for an early emerging neural system integrating one's own actions with the perception of others' actions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)50-62
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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