fMRI adaptation reveals mirror neurons in human inferior parietal cortex.
Chong TT., Cunnington R., Williams MA., Kanwisher N., Mattingley JB.
Mirror neurons, as originally described in the macaque, have two defining properties [1, 2]: They respond specifically to a particular action (e.g., bringing an object to the mouth), and they produce their action-specific responses independent of whether the monkey executes the action or passively observes a conspecific performing the same action. In humans, action observation and action execution engage a network of frontal, parietal, and temporal areas. However, it is unclear whether these responses reflect the activity of a single population that represents both observed and executed actions in a common neural code or the activity of distinct but overlapping populations of exclusively perceptual and motor neurons . Here, we used fMRI adaptation to show that the right inferior parietal lobe (IPL) responds independently to specific actions regardless of whether they are observed or executed. Specifically, responses in the right IPL were attenuated when participants observed a recently executed action relative to one that had not previously been performed. This adaptation across action and perception demonstrates that the right IPL responds selectively to the motoric and perceptual representations of actions and is the first evidence for a neural response in humans that shows both defining properties of mirror neurons.