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Neuropsychologia. 2010 Jul;48(9):2675-80. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.05.014. Epub 2010 May 12.

Understanding mirror neurons: evidence for enhanced corticospinal excitability during the observation of transitive but not intransitive hand gestures.

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Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre, School of Psychology and Psychiatry, Monash University and the Alfred, Australia.


Putative measures of mirror neuron activity suggest that mirror neurons respond preferentially to biological motion, but it remains unclear whether enhanced cortical activity occurs during the observation of any behaviour, or whether that behaviour needs to be associated with a particular object or goal. Forty-three healthy adults completed a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) experiment that assessed corticospinal excitability while viewing intransitive and transitive hand gestures (compared with the presentation of a static hand). Visual presentations were designed to control for motoric and stimulus properties. A significant increase in corticospinal excitability (putatively reflecting mirror neuron activation) was seen only during the observation of transitive behaviour. These findings are consistent with the notion that human hand-related mirror neurons are sensitive to object- and goal-directed behaviour, rather than biological motion per se.

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