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Dissociating object directed and non-object directed action in the human mirror system; implications for theories of motor simulation.

Agnew, ZK; Wise, RJ; Leech, R; (2012) Dissociating object directed and non-object directed action in the human mirror system; implications for theories of motor simulation. PLoS One , 7 (4) , Article e32517. 10.1371/journal.pone.0032517. Green open access

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Abstract

Mirror neurons are single cells found in macaque premotor and parietal cortices that are active during action execution and observation. In non-human primates, mirror neurons have only been found in relation to object-directed movements or communicative gestures, as non-object directed actions of the upper limb are not well characterized in non-human primates. Mirror neurons provide important evidence for motor simulation theories of cognition, sometimes referred to as the direct matching hypothesis, which propose that observed actions are mapped onto associated motor schemata in a direct and automatic manner. This study, for the first time, directly compares mirror responses, defined as the overlap between action execution and observation, during object directed and meaningless non-object directed actions. We present functional MRI data that demonstrate a clear dissociation between object directed and non-object directed actions within the human mirror system. A premotor and parietal network was preferentially active during object directed actions, whether observed or executed. Moreover, we report spatially correlated activity across multiple voxels for observation and execution of an object directed action. In contrast to predictions made by motor simulation theory, no similar activity was observed for non-object directed actions. These data demonstrate that object directed and meaningless non-object directed actions are subserved by different neuronal networks and that the human mirror response is significantly greater for object directed actions. These data have important implications for understanding the human mirror system and for simulation theories of motor cognition. Subsequent theories of motor simulation must account for these differences, possibly by acknowledging the role of experience in modulating the mirror response.

Type: Article
Title: Dissociating object directed and non-object directed action in the human mirror system; implications for theories of motor simulation.
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032517
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0032517
Language: English
Additional information: © 2012 Agnew et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. This work was funded in the main by the Medical Research Council (http://www.mrc.ac.uk/index.htm) and to a much lesser degree Research Councils UK (RCUK) (http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/Pages/Home.aspx). The experiment was carried out by ZKA who, at the time, was funded by the Medical Research Council. RL, who contributed greatly to the pattern analysis and writing, was at the time funded by RCUK. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. No additional external funding was received for this study.
Keywords: Adult, Animals, Cognition, Female, Humans, Macaca, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Mirror Neurons, Motor Cortex, Movement, Parietal Lobe, Psychomotor Performance, Young Adult
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1383610
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