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Bridging a yawning chasm: EEG investigations into the debate concerning the role of the human mirror neuron system in contagious yawning

Bridging a yawning chasm: EEG investigations into the debate concerning the role of the human mirror neuron system in contagious yawning
Bridging a yawning chasm: EEG investigations into the debate concerning the role of the human mirror neuron system in contagious yawning
Ongoing debate in the literature concerns whether there is a link between contagious yawning and the human mirror neuron system (hMNS). One way of examining this issue is with the use of the electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure changes in mu activation during the observation of yawns. Mu oscillations are seen in the alpha bandwidth of the EEG (8–12 Hz) over sensorimotor areas. Previous work has shown that mu suppression is a useful index of hMNS activation and is sensitive to individual differences in empathy. In two experiments, we presented participants with videos of either people yawning or control stimuli. We found greater mu suppression for yawns than for controls over right motor and premotor areas, particularly for those scoring higher on traits of empathy. In a third experiment, auditory recordings of yawns were compared against electronically scrambled versions of the same yawns. We observed greater mu suppression for yawns than for the controls over right lateral premotor areas. Again, these findings were driven by those scoring highly on empathy. The results from these experiments support the notion that the hMNS is involved in contagious yawning, emphasise the link between contagious yawning and empathy, and stress the importance of good control stimuli.
1530-7026
393-405
Cooper, Nicholas R.
369cf070-1033-4fbe-bf85-742d5ddc2084
Puzzo, Ignazio
75e8aedb-d375-4c59-8a6c-3eecc35b44a6
Pawley, Adam D.
afd00116-6bc7-4cdd-ba21-88058b937c87
Bowes-Mulligan, Ruby A.
7c7205ea-357f-45bb-a279-530cbec1edd0
Kirkpatrick, Emma V.
ef4472be-90bf-400a-b100-e9d26cb907fc
Antoniou, Pavlina A.
47912462-f264-4f74-96ad-6f52e05f20a0
Kennett, Steffan
39d33129-8c69-4f98-93f9-ca4d9d5df23b
Cooper, Nicholas R.
369cf070-1033-4fbe-bf85-742d5ddc2084
Puzzo, Ignazio
75e8aedb-d375-4c59-8a6c-3eecc35b44a6
Pawley, Adam D.
afd00116-6bc7-4cdd-ba21-88058b937c87
Bowes-Mulligan, Ruby A.
7c7205ea-357f-45bb-a279-530cbec1edd0
Kirkpatrick, Emma V.
ef4472be-90bf-400a-b100-e9d26cb907fc
Antoniou, Pavlina A.
47912462-f264-4f74-96ad-6f52e05f20a0
Kennett, Steffan
39d33129-8c69-4f98-93f9-ca4d9d5df23b

Cooper, Nicholas R., Puzzo, Ignazio, Pawley, Adam D., Bowes-Mulligan, Ruby A., Kirkpatrick, Emma V., Antoniou, Pavlina A. and Kennett, Steffan (2012) Bridging a yawning chasm: EEG investigations into the debate concerning the role of the human mirror neuron system in contagious yawning. Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience, 12 (2), 393-405. (doi:10.3758/s13415-011-0081-7).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Ongoing debate in the literature concerns whether there is a link between contagious yawning and the human mirror neuron system (hMNS). One way of examining this issue is with the use of the electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure changes in mu activation during the observation of yawns. Mu oscillations are seen in the alpha bandwidth of the EEG (8–12 Hz) over sensorimotor areas. Previous work has shown that mu suppression is a useful index of hMNS activation and is sensitive to individual differences in empathy. In two experiments, we presented participants with videos of either people yawning or control stimuli. We found greater mu suppression for yawns than for controls over right motor and premotor areas, particularly for those scoring higher on traits of empathy. In a third experiment, auditory recordings of yawns were compared against electronically scrambled versions of the same yawns. We observed greater mu suppression for yawns than for the controls over right lateral premotor areas. Again, these findings were driven by those scoring highly on empathy. The results from these experiments support the notion that the hMNS is involved in contagious yawning, emphasise the link between contagious yawning and empathy, and stress the importance of good control stimuli.

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Published date: June 2012
Organisations: University of Southampton

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 390719
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/390719
ISSN: 1530-7026
PURE UUID: c06e0b30-0c9c-463c-b216-94ff4fb828ab
ORCID for Emma V. Kirkpatrick: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-3099-1605

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Date deposited: 04 May 2016 15:40
Last modified: 15 Jul 2019 20:38

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Contributors

Author: Nicholas R. Cooper
Author: Ignazio Puzzo
Author: Adam D. Pawley
Author: Ruby A. Bowes-Mulligan
Author: Emma V. Kirkpatrick ORCID iD
Author: Pavlina A. Antoniou
Author: Steffan Kennett

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