Human action sounds elicit sensorimotor activation early in life

Ermanno Quadrelli, Elena Geangu, Chiara Turati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In human adults the auditory representation of others' actions
is capable to activate specific areas of the motor and premotor cortices.
Here, we examined the early origins of action sounds neural processing to
investigate whether and how infants rely on auditory information to
understand their close social environment. Sensorimotor activity, as
indexed by μ rhythm suppression, was measured using
electroencephalography in 14-month-old infants who listened to hand- and
foot-produced action sounds (i.e., footsteps and clapping) and to
mechanical sounds (i.e., blender). Footstep sounds elicited activation at
midline electrodes over the foot area (Cz), and not in correspondence of
lateralized clusters over the hand areas (C3 and C4). Greater activation
in response to clapping compared to blender and footstep sounds was
recorded at electrodes in the left central cluster, over the hand
sensorimotor cortex (i.e., C3), but extended to some extent over the
midline electrode cluster. Furthermore, our results underscore the role
of natural locomotor experience in shaping sensorimotor activation, since
infants who gathered more walking experience exhibited stronger
sensorimotor activation for footstep sounds over left central electrodes.
Taken together, current results provide the first evidence that action
sounds produced by another person are capable to elicit sensorimotor
activation during infancy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-335
Number of pages13
JournalCortex; a journal devoted to the study of the nervous system and behavior
Early online date18 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2019 Elsevier Ltd. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.


  • Sensorimotor cortex
  • motor experience
  • sounds
  • action perception
  • infancy

Cite this