Power modulation of electroencephalogram mu and beta frequency depends on perceived level of observed actions

Shiri Simon, Roy Mukamel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: The ability to understand actions and intentions of others is of great importance to social relationships and is associated with the mirror neuron system of the human brain. Whether conscious perception of specific actions is necessary to trigger activity in this system, or alternatively whether this response is independent of conscious perception is not known. Methods: We addressed this issue by rendering videos of right hand movements invisible to conscious perception, and measuring electroencephalogram (EEG) power suppression in the mu (8–13 Hz) and beta (15–25 Hz) range as index corresponding to the magnitude of mirror neuron activity. Results: In the beta range over bilateral sensorimotor sites, we find that suppression indices follow the reported perceptual level of subjects with stronger suppression for consciously perceived trials. Furthermore, in the nonperceived trials, oscillation power is significantly suppressed relative to baseline. In the low mu range (8–10 Hz), oscillation power over the left sensorimotor site is significantly more suppressed in the consciously perceived versus nonperceived trials. Conclusions: Our data suggest that the intensity of mirror system responses during action observation decreases with the observers' perception level yet remains significant during observation of invisible actions. Such subliminal activity could help explain phenomena such as covert imitation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00494
JournalBrain and Behavior
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2016


  • Action observation
  • conscious perception
  • electroencephalogram
  • mirror neuron system


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