The sequential nature of action ensures that an individual can anticipate the conclusion of an observed action via the use of semantic rules. The semantic processing of language and action has been linked to the N400 component of the event-related potential (ERP). The authors developed an ERP paradigm in which infants and adults observed simple sequences of actions. In one condition the conclusion of the sequence was anticipated, whereas in the other condition the conclusion was not anticipated. Adults and infants at 9 months and 7 months were assessed via the same neural mechanisms-the N400 component and analysis of the theta frequency. Results indicated that adults and infants at 9 months produced N400-like responses when anticipating action conclusions. The infants at 7 months displayed no N400 component. Analysis of the theta frequency provided support for the relation between the N400 and semantic processing. This study suggests that infants at 9 months anticipate goals and use similar cognitive mechanisms to adults in this task. In addition, this result suggests that language processing may derive from understanding action in early development.
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