A PhD candidate who studies motor learning and action observation.
Mirror neurons allow us to learn actions from others and understand their emotions.
The mirror neuron system is a group of cells in the brain (neurons) were first discovered when a group of researchers recording from a single neuron in the monkey brain realized that a neuron that was active previously for reaching also became active when the monkey observed a researcher reaching.It has been shown that these neurons are active both when a person performs an action and when they observe another person performing that same action. Because they are active in both cases, they are essentially "mirroring" the action of the other person. The activation of these neurons can facilitate learning new movements and imitation by activating a pattern of brain activity in the observer's brain that would produce a movement similar to what is being observed. This concept has been extended to social contexts where it is possible that the mirror neuron system facilitates the understanding of others' emotions (i.e. empathy). Mirroring of facial expressions and body movements used to express emotion can activate that same emotion in the observers brain. This mechanism allows for the grasp of another's mental state without the need for explicit verbal communication.
This pinboard highlights both the initial discovery of mirorr neurons in the monkey brain as well as some more modern extensions of the concept. How can we intuit what others are thinking and their emotional states? Can mirror neurons help us to better coordinate with others? What are the important rehabilitative implications of the mirror neuron mechanism? If we can learn from others just by observing them, how can researchers exploit the properties of these neurons to improve the everyday lives of those with decreased motor function?
Abstract: Theoretical accounts suggest that mirror neurons play a crucial role in social cognition. The current study used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to investigate the association between mirror neuron activation and facial emotion processing, a fundamental aspect of social cognition, among healthy adults (n=20). Facial emotion processing of static (but not dynamic) images correlated significantly with an enhanced motor response, proposed to reflect mirror neuron activation. These correlations did not appear to reflect general facial processing or pattern recognition, and provide support to current theoretical accounts linking the mirror neuron system to aspects of social cognition. We discuss the mechanism by which mirror neurons might facilitate facial emotion recognition.
Pub.: 17 Jun '08, Pinned: 07 Apr '17
Abstract: A category of stimuli of great importance for primates, humans in particular, is that formed by actions done by other individuals. If we want to survive, we must understand the actions of others. Furthermore, without action understanding, social organization is impossible. In the case of humans, there is another faculty that depends on the observation of others' actions: imitation learning. Unlike most species, we are able to learn by imitation, and this faculty is at the basis of human culture. In this review we present data on a neurophysiological mechanism--the mirror-neuron mechanism--that appears to play a fundamental role in both action understanding and imitation. We describe first the functional properties of mirror neurons in monkeys. We review next the characteristics of the mirror-neuron system in humans. We stress, in particular, those properties specific to the human mirror-neuron system that might explain the human capacity to learn by imitation. We conclude by discussing the relationship between the mirror-neuron system and language.
Pub.: 26 Jun '04, Pinned: 07 Apr '17
Abstract: Prefrontal cortex is crucial for exploiting contextual information for the planning and guidance of behavioral responses. Among contextual cues, those provided by others' behavior are particularly important, in primates, for selecting appropriate reactions and suppressing the inappropriate ones. These latter functions deeply rely on the ability to understand others' actions. However, it is largely unknown whether prefrontal neurons are activated by action observation. To address this issue, we recorded the activity of ventrolateral prefrontal (VLPF) neurons of macaque monkeys during the observation of videos depicting biological movements performed by a monkey or a human agent, and object motion. Our results show that a population of VLPF neurons respond to the observation of biological movements, in particular those representing goal directed actions. Many of these neurons also show a preference for the agent performing the action. The neural response is present also when part of the observed movement is obscured, suggesting that these VLPF neurons code a high order representation of the observed action rather than a simple visual description of it.
Pub.: 16 Mar '17, Pinned: 07 Apr '17
Abstract: Neuroscience research during the past ten years has fundamentally changed the traditional view of the motor system. In monkeys, the finding that premotor neurons also discharge during visual stimulation (visuomotor neurons) raises new hypotheses about the putative role played by motor representations in perceptual functions. Among visuomotor neurons, mirror neurons might be involved in understanding the actions of others and might, therefore, be crucial in interindividual communication. Functional brain imaging studies enabled us to localize the human mirror system, but the demonstration that the motor cortex dynamically replicates the observed actions, as if they were executed by the observer, can only be given by fast and focal measurements of cortical activity. Transcranial magnetic stimulation enables us to instantaneously estimate corticospinal excitability, and has been used to study the human mirror system at work during the perception of actions performed by other individuals. In the past ten years several TMS experiments have been performed investigating the involvement of motor system during others' action observation. Results suggest that when we observe another individual acting we strongly 'resonate' with his or her action. In other words, our motor system simulates underthreshold the observed action in a strictly congruent fashion. The involved muscles are the same as those used in the observed action and their activation is temporally strictly coupled with the dynamics of the observed action.
Pub.: 16 Apr '05, Pinned: 07 Apr '17
Abstract: Two recent developments in motor neuroscience are promising the extension of theoretical concepts from motor control towards cognitive processes, including human social interactions and understanding the intentions of others. The first of these is the discovery of what are now called mirror neurons, which code for both observed and executed actions. The second is the concept of internal models, and in particular recent proposals that forward and inverse models operate in paired modules. These two ideas will be briefly introduced, and a recent suggestion linking between the two processes of mirroring and modelling will be described which may underlie our abilities for imitating actions, for cooperation between two actors, and possibly for communication via gesture and language.
Pub.: 20 Nov '03, Pinned: 07 Apr '17
Abstract: There is a convergence between cognitive models of imitation, constructs derived from social psychology studies on mimicry and empathy, and recent empirical findings from the neurosciences. The ideomotor framework of human actions assumes a common representational format for action and perception that facilitates imitation. Furthermore, the associative sequence learning model of imitation proposes that experience-based Hebbian learning forms links between sensory processing of the actions of others and motor plans. Social psychology studies have demonstrated that imitation and mimicry are pervasive, automatic, and facilitate empathy. Neuroscience investigations have demonstrated physiological mechanisms of mirroring at single-cell and neural-system levels that support the cognitive and social psychology constructs. Why were these neural mechanisms selected, and what is their adaptive advantage? Neural mirroring solves the "problem of other minds" (how we can access and understand the minds of others) and makes intersubjectivity possible, thus facilitating social behavior.
Pub.: 17 Sep '08, Pinned: 07 Apr '17
Abstract: This paper discusses the relevance of the discovery of mirror neurons in monkeys and of the mirror neuron system in humans to a neuroscientific account of primates' social cognition and its evolution. It is proposed that mirror neurons and the functional mechanism they underpin, embodied simulation, can ground within a unitary neurophysiological explanatory framework important aspects of human social cognition. In particular, the main focus is on language, here conceived according to a neurophenomenological perspective, grounding meaning on the social experience of action. A neurophysiological hypothesis--the "neural exploitation hypothesis"--is introduced to explain how key aspects of human social cognition are underpinned by brain mechanisms originally evolved for sensorimotor integration. It is proposed that these mechanisms were later on adapted as new neurofunctional architecture for thought and language, while retaining their original functions as well. By neural exploitation, social cognition and language can be linked to the experiential domain of action.
Pub.: 04 Nov '08, Pinned: 07 Apr '17
Abstract: One of the most exciting events in neurosciences over the past few years has been the discovery of a mechanism that unifies action perception and action execution. The essence of this 'mirror' mechanism is as follows: whenever individuals observe an action being done by someone else, a set of neurons that code for that action is activated in the observers' motor system. Since the observers are aware of the outcome of their motor acts, they also understand what the other individual is doing without the need for intermediate cognitive mediation. In this Review, after discussing the most pertinent data concerning the mirror mechanism, we examine the clinical relevance of this mechanism. We first discuss the relationship between mirror mechanism impairment and some core symptoms of autism. We then outline the theoretical principles of neurorehabilitation strategies based on the mirror mechanism. We conclude by examining the relationship between the mirror mechanism and some features of the environmental dependency syndromes.
Pub.: 09 Jan '09, Pinned: 07 Apr '17
Abstract: Mirror neurons found in the premotor and parietal cortex respond not only during action execution, but also during observation of actions being performed by others. Thus, the motor system may be activated without overt movement. Rehabilitation of motor function after stroke is often challenging due to severity of impairment and poor to absent voluntary movement ability. Methods in stroke rehabilitation based on the mirror neuron system--action observation, motor imagery, and imitation--take advantage of this opportunity to rebuild motor function despite impairments, as an alternative or complement to physical therapy. Here the authors review research into each condition of practice, and discuss the relevance of the mirror neuron system to stroke recovery.
Pub.: 09 Mar '10, Pinned: 07 Apr '17
Abstract: [Purpose] The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of action observation training and mirror therapy to improve on balance and gait function of stroke patients. [Subjects and Methods] The participants were randomly allocated to one of three groups: The action observation training with activity group practiced additional action observation training with activity for three 30-minute session for six weeks (n=12). The mirror therapy with activity group practiced additional mirror therapy with activity for three 30-minute sessions for six weeks (n=11). The only action observation training group practiced additional action observation training for three 30-minute sessions for weeks (n=12). All groups received conventional therapy for five 60-minute sessions over a six-week period. [Results] There were significant improvements in balance and gait function. The action observation training with activity group significantly improved subjects' static balance. The action observation training with activity group and the mirror therapy with activity group significantly improved subjects' gait ability. [Conclusion] The activation of mirror neurons combined with a conventional stroke physiotherapy program enhances lower-extremity motor recovery and motor functioning in stroke patients.
Pub.: 31 Mar '17, Pinned: 07 Apr '17