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Neuroimage. 2006 Oct 15;33(1):227-38. Epub 2006 Jul 28.

Investigating the human mirror neuron system by means of cortical synchronization during the imitation of biological movements.

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Department of Psychology, Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, CCNi, University of Glasgow, UK.


The human mirror neuron system (MNS) has recently been a major topic of research in cognitive neuroscience. As a very basic reflection of the MNS, human observers are faster at imitating a biological as compared with a non-biological movement. However, it is unclear which cortical areas and their interactions (synchronization) are responsible for this behavioural advantage. We investigated the time course of long-range synchronization within cortical networks during an imitation task in 10 healthy participants by means of whole-head magnetoencephalography (MEG). Extending previous work, we conclude that left ventrolateral premotor, bilateral temporal and parietal areas mediate the observed behavioural advantage of biological movements in close interaction with the basal ganglia and other motor areas (cerebellum, sensorimotor cortex). Besides left ventrolateral premotor cortex, we identified the right temporal pole and the posterior parietal cortex as important junctions for the integration of information from different sources in imitation tasks that are controlled for movement (biological vs. non-biological) and that involve a certain amount of spatial orienting of attention. Finally, we also found the basal ganglia to participate at an early stage in the processing of biological movement, possibly by selecting suitable motor programs that match the stimulus.

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