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Trends Cogn Sci. 2009 Mar;13(3):110-4. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2008.11.008. Epub 2009 Feb 14.

Reflections on mirror neurons and speech perception.

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Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, University of Arizona, 1131 E. 2nd Street, P.O. Box 210071, Tucson, AZ 85721-0071, USA.


The discovery of mirror neurons, a class of neurons that respond when a monkey performs an action and also when the monkey observes others producing the same action, has promoted a renaissance for the Motor Theory (MT) of speech perception. This is because mirror neurons seem to accomplish the same kind of one to one mapping between perception and action that MT theorizes to be the basis of human speech communication. However, this seeming correspondence is superficial, and there are theoretical and empirical reasons to temper enthusiasm about the explanatory role mirror neurons might have for speech perception. In fact, rather than providing support for MT, mirror neurons are actually inconsistent with the central tenets of MT.

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