This Fellowship aims to study the role of infants' motor and body representations in the development of action perception. Existing research indicates that infants' abilities to predict others' actions and imitate their goals may be precursors to social cognition - the ability to infer the mental states of others. Although the contribution of sensorimotor processes to infants' action perception is the subject of ongoing research, little existing research has explored the inherently embodied nature of sensorimotor action representations in light of the extensive physical and motor development during infancy. The objectives of the proposed research are to examine infants’ sensorimotor representations of the body, how these representations are affected by the development of new motor skills, and how inhibiting access to a mental representation of their own body affects infants’ perception of action. A novel contribution of the research will be the Fellow’s training in and application of magnetoencephalography (MEG) to infant action perception. This method is particularly relevant to the research, as MEG’s spatial resolution enables investigation of topographic neural activation. This will tell us if infant neural sensorimotor responses to observed action involve representations of the parts of the body used in the action. Established methods in developmental psychology (preferential looking, electroencephalography) will also be used, along with a new application of a posture manipulation paradigm to an infant population. The scientific outcome of this fellowship will be improved understanding of early social cognitive development via the incorporation of own-body representation into existing theories of developmental action perception. The impact of the outgoing phase will be to equip the Fellow with specialist technical skills in developmental research, particularly developmental MEG. These skills will be transferred to Europe in the return phase.
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