Brain Topography

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 258–270 | Cite as

Parieto-Frontal Circuits During Observation of Hidden and Visible Motor Acts in Children. A High-density EEG Source Imaging Study

  • Cristina Berchio
  • Tonia A. Rihs
  • Christoph M. Michel
  • Denis Brunet
  • Fabio Apicella
  • Filippo Muratori
  • Vittorio Gallese
  • Maria A. Umiltà
Original Paper


Several studies showed that in the human brain specific premotor and parietal areas are activated during the execution and observation of motor acts. The activation of this premotor-parietal network displaying the so-called Mirror Mechanism (MM) was proposed to underpin basic forms of action understanding. However, the functional properties of the MM in children are still largely unknown. In order to address this issue, we recorded high-density EEG from 12 children (6 female, 6 male; average age 10.5, SD ±2.15). Data were collected when children observed video clips showing hands grasping objects in two different experimental conditions: (1) Full Vision, in which the motor act was fully visible; (2) Hidden, in which the interaction between the hand and the object was not visible. Event-related potentials (ERPs) and topographic map analyses were used to investigate the temporal pattern of the ERPs and their brain source of localization, employing a children template of the Montreal Neurological Institute. Results showed that two different parieto-premotor circuits are activated by the observation of object-related hand reaching-to-grasping motor acts in children. The first circuit comprises the ventral premotor and the inferior parietal cortices. The second one comprises the dorsal premotor and superior parietal cortices. The activation of both circuits is differently lateralized and modulated in time, and influenced by the amount of visual information available about the hand grasping-related portion of the observed motor acts.


Brain circuits Children ERP Mirror Mechanism Source localization 



This research was supported by a fellowship by Fondazione Monte Parma to C. B., by the EU grant Marie-Curie Initial Training Network, “TESIS: Towards an Embodied Science of Inter Subjectivity” (FP7-PEOPLE-2010-ITN, 264828) to V.G., and by the “Ricerca Finalizzata 2007—Programma Strategico Inquiry into disruption of intersubjective equipment in autistic spectrum disorders in childhood”. C.B., T.R. and C.M. were supported by the National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) “SYNAPSY—The Synaptic Bases of Mental Diseases” financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant No. 51AU40_125759). The Cartool software ( has been programmed by Denis Brunet and is supported by the Center for Biomedical Imaging of Geneva and Lausanne, Switzerland.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cristina Berchio
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tonia A. Rihs
    • 2
  • Christoph M. Michel
    • 2
    • 3
  • Denis Brunet
    • 2
  • Fabio Apicella
    • 4
  • Filippo Muratori
    • 4
  • Vittorio Gallese
    • 1
  • Maria A. Umiltà
    • 1
  1. 1.Section of Physiology, Department of NeuroscienceUniversity of ParmaParmaItaly
  2. 2.Functional Brain Mapping Laboratory, Department of Fundamental NeurosciencesUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland
  3. 3.University HospitalGenevaSwitzerland
  4. 4.Stella Maris Scientific InstituteUniversity of PisaCalambroneItaly

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