Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 232, Issue 6, pp 1585–1597 | Cite as

The developmental cognitive neuroscience of action: semantics, motor resonance and social processing

  • Áine Ní ChoisdealbhaEmail author
  • Vincent Reid


The widespread use of EEG methods and the introduction of new brain imaging methods such as near-infrared spectroscopy have made cognitive neuroscience research with infants more feasible, resulting in an explosion of new findings. Among the long-established study of the neural correlates of face and speech perception in infancy, there has been an abundance of recent research on infant perception and production of action and concomitant neurocognitive development. In this review, three significant strands of developmental action research are discussed. The first strand focuses on the relationship of diverse social cognitive processes, including the perception of goals and animacy, and the development of precursors to theory of mind, to action perception. The second investigates the role of motor resonance and mirror systems in early action development. The third strand focuses on the extraction of meaning from action by infants and discusses how semantic processing of action emerges early in life. Although these strands of research are pursued separately, many of the findings from each strand inform all three theoretical frameworks. This review will evaluate the evidence for a synthesised account of infant action development.


Infancy EEG/ERPs Social cognition Mirroring system Action Semantic processing 



This work was supported by FP7 Marie Curie ITN “ACT”, Grant Number 289404. We would like to thank Sabine Hunnius for her comments on an early version of this manuscript.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyLancaster UniversityLancasterUK

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