What are Mirror Neurons? • Mirror neurons are cells that fire when a monkey (or person?) performs an action or when it views another animal performing that same action
What are Mirror Neurons? • Located in conjunction with a frontoparietal action planning network: • posterior inferior frontal • pre-motor areas that represent impending actions • inferior parietal • sensory area that integrates somatosensory, visual and auditory signals • These regions are densely interconnected
What are Mirror Neurons? • Mirror neurons are in regions immediately adjacent to these frontal and parietal areas • Motor properties of mirror neurons are same as “non-mirror” neurons but… • Sensory properties are different • These cells do not fire when monkey sees a graspable object • They do fire when monkey sees another monkey (or a person!) perform actions relative to objects
What can Mirror Neurons Represent? • Some cells are precisely tuned to the specific actions • e.g. using two fingers to pick up an object • Others are broadly tuned to any action that accomplishes the same goal • E.g. using any combination of hand and fingers to pick up an object
What can Mirror Neurons Represent? • Mirror neurons represent abstract actions and goals • Cells will not fire when grasping is pantomimed • Cells will fire when grasping is real and visible • Cells will also fire when grasping happens behind an occluding screen, as long as the monkey has seen that there is an object to be grasped behind the screen!
What can Mirror Neurons Represent? • Mirror neurons represent abstract actions and goals • Some mirror neurons will even fire in response to the sound of an action being performed • e.g. the sound of breaking a peanut shell
What can Mirror Neurons Represent? • Mirror neurons represent intended actions
Mirror Neurons • "Our survival depends on understanding the actions, intentions and emotions of others." • Dr. Rizzolatti
Mirror Neurons in Humans? The neural circuitry of imitation • a ‘core circuit’ for imitation
Mirror Neurons • Development
Mirror Neurons in Humans • Social Cognition
The suppression of mu occurs during observation and execution of motor activity Begins in childhood Mirror Neurons in Humans Waves of Mu By Amy Carson
Mirror Neurons Dysfunction in Autism • Some evidence supports a theory (speculation?) that a dysfunction of the MNS underlies social isolation disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
Iacoboni & Dapretto (2006). The mirror neuron system and the consequences of its dysfunction. Nature, 7, 942-951.