Electroencephalographic mu rhythm desynchronization is thought to reflect Mirror Neuron System (MNS) activity and represents an important neural correlate of the coupling between action execution and perception. It is still unclear if the MNS in human ontogeny is already available at the beginning of postnatal life and how early experience impacts its development. Premature birth provides a “natural condition” for investigating the effects of early, atypical extra-uterine experience on MNS. The main aim of the present study was to investigate whether the MNS activity is associated with prematurity. We compared the mu rhythm activity in preterm (PT) and full-term (FT) 14-month old infants during an action observation/execution (AO/AE) task. Mu rhythm desynchronization was computed over frontal, central, parietal and occipital regions. Both groups showed mu rhythm suppression in all the scalp regions during action execution. Different desynchronization patterns emerged during action observation. Specifically, FT infants showed mu suppression in the right frontal, bilateral parietal and occipital regions; whereas PT infants exhibited mu suppression only in the right parietal region. Overall, these preliminary findings indicate that an atypical extra uterine experience might have an impact on the MNS activity.
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