Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)




Jennifer Anne Stevens

Committee Members

Christine Porter

Denise Wade


The mirror neuron system (MNS) includes a collection of neurons in the brain that respond to the performance and observation of similar motor actions. Exploration of this system has furthered the understanding and representation of learning through imitation, action understanding, motor system activation, empathy, and language processing, among other fields of interest in cognitive neuroscience. This study explores activation of the MNS by video or audio cueing in expert ballet dancers versus non-dancers in order to demonstrate how visual and audio presentation of familiar and non-familiar movements can prime an individual’s performance on a serial motor response task. It was found that dancers are faster at initiating responses in comparison to non-dancers on all tasks. Additionally, it was found that regardless of group, participants had faster total reaction times when presented with video versus audio action stimuli. A stimulus by group interaction was also observed when measuring initial and total reaction time. Finally, all participants were found to have faster average total reaction times when presented with everyday, innate movements in comparison to ballet dance movements. Overall, this study demonstrates a variety of patterns of priming of the motor system from action observation and what we believe to be MNS activation. Namely, action observation appears to be uniquely facilitative (as compared to verbal cueing) and this facilitation is stronger with everyday, familiar actions as well as in populations that have more than average experience with the movement.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

On-Campus Access Only