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this curator

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?


Human motor cortex excitability during the perception of others' action.

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