British Journal of Developmental Psychology

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Volume 34 Issue 1 (March 2016), Pages 1-151

Neural mechanisms of the observation of human and non‐human object touch in children: An event‐related potential study (pages 86-100)

Previous behavioural research on the development of self–other tactile processing and perception suggests that this system may develop in a somewhat protracted manner relative to other aspects of social development. Neuroimaging research has shown that somatosensory mechanisms are activated when adults observe another person or object being touched. In this study, we measured event‐related potentials from 4‐ to 5‐year‐old children to investigate the development of the neural correlates of the observation of human and object touch. Participants were presented with video clips of an arm or a cylindrical object being touched. Touch versus non‐touch effects were observed in the amplitudes of the LSW component (600–700 ms) measured from electrodes over somatosensory region. Additionally, human versus non‐human stimulus effects were reflected in the amplitudes of the parietal–central N100 component, as well as in the latencies of the N170 component recorded from parietal‐occipital electrodes in children, as in adults in a previous study using this same paradigm. These findings provide evidence that relatively mature tactile mirroring mechanisms are activated during the observation of touch in children, and further suggest the possibility that these mechanisms are not particularly slow in their development relative to other aspects of social cognition.

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