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Cortical signatures of vicarious tactile experience in four-month-old infants

Rigato, S; Banissy, MJ; Romanska, A; Thomas, R; van Velzen, J; Bremner, AJ; (2019) Cortical signatures of vicarious tactile experience in four-month-old infants. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience , 35 pp. 75-80. 10.1016/j.dcn.2017.09.003. Green open access

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Abstract

The human brain recruits similar brain regions when a state is experienced (e.g., touch, pain, actions) and when that state is passively observed in other individuals. In adults, seeing other people being touched activates similar brain areas as when we experience touch ourselves. Here we show that already by four months of age, cortical responses to tactile stimulation are modulated by visual information specifying another person being touched. We recorded somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) in 4-month-old infants while they were presented with brief vibrotactile stimuli to the hands. At the same time that the tactile stimuli were presented the infants observed another person’s hand being touched by a soft paintbrush or approached by the paintbrush which then touched the surface next to their hand. A prominent positive peak in SEPs contralateral to the site of tactile stimulation around 130 ms after the tactile stimulus onset was of a significantly larger amplitude for the “Surface” trials than for the “Hand” trials. These findings indicate that, even at four months of age, somatosensory cortex is not only involved in the personal experience of touch but can also be vicariously recruited by seeing other people being touched.

Type: Article
Title: Cortical signatures of vicarious tactile experience in four-month-old infants
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.dcn.2017.09.003
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2017.09.003
Language: English
Additional information: © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/BY/4.0/).
Keywords: Multisensory development, Touch, Infancy, Empathic sensing, Somatosensory evoked potentials, Tactile perception, Social perceptual development
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Culture, Communication and Media
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1575750
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