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New Frontiers in Mirror Neurons Research$
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Pier Francesco Ferrari and Giacomo Rizzolatti

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199686155

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199686155.001.0001

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Neonatal imitation and its sensorimotor mechanism

Neonatal imitation and its sensorimotor mechanism

(p.296) Chapter 16 Neonatal imitation and its sensorimotor mechanism
New Frontiers in Mirror Neurons Research

Elizabeth A. Simpson

Annika Paukner

Stephen J. Suomi

Pier F. Ferrari

Oxford University Press

A developmental approach is critical for understanding both mirror neurons and the debates surrounding their properties, plasticity, function, and evolution. The presence of interindividual differences in early social competencies, such as neonatal imitation, is indicative of the complex nature of interactions among genetic, epigenetic, and nongenetic (environmental) factors in shaping action-perception brain networks. This chapter proposes that three aspects of early social development may explain variability in neonatal imitation: (1) individual differences in sensorimotor matching skills, underpinned by mirror neurons, functioning from birth and refined through postnatal experiences; (2) individual differences in social engagements, with some infants demonstrating stronger preferences for social interactions than others; and (3) more general temperamental differences, such as differences in extroversion or reactivity. The chapter presents findings and proposes future directions aimed at testing these possibilities by examining individual differences related to imitative skill.

Keywords:   infant, neonatal imitation, individual differences, social development, social interest, temperament

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