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Mirror Neurons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where do mirror neurons come from?

 



 


Mirror neurons from associative learning. a) Before learning, sensory neurons in STS
, encoding visual descriptions of observed action, are not systematically connected to motor neurons in premotor and parietal areas involved in the production of similar actions. b) Through social interaction and self-observation in the course of typical development, agents receive correlated sensorimotor experience; they see and do the same action at about the same time (contiguity), with one event predicting the other (contingency). This experience produces correlated activation of sensory and motor neurons coding similar actions, and, through associative learning, c) strengthens connections between these neurons.  Due to these connections, neurons that were once involved only in the execution of action will also discharge during observation of a similar action; motor neurons become MNs.  Because the visual system and motor system are organised hierarchically, some types of sensorimotor experience produce correlated activation of sensory and motor neurons coding relatively low-level features of action (e.g. left or right hand, power or precision grip), and thereby generate strictly congruent, hand- and direction-sensitive MNs.  Other types produce correlated activation of neurons coding relatively high-level features (e.g. grasping), and generate broadly congruent MNs. [Graphics by Richard Cook.  To appear in: Cook, Bird, Catmur, Press & Heyes (under review) Mirror neurons: from origin to function.