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Trends Cogn Sci. 1998 Dec 1;2(12):493-501.

Mirror neurons and the simulation theory of mind-reading.

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1
Istituto di Fisiologia Umana, Università di Parma, Via Volturno 39, I-43100 Parma, Italy.

Abstract

A new class of visuomotor neuron has been recently discovered in the monkey's premotor cortex: mirror neurons. These neurons respond both when a particular action is performed by the recorded monkey and when the same action, performed by another individual, is observed. Mirror neurons appear to form a cortical system matching observation and execution of goal-related motor actions. Experimental evidence suggests that a similar matching system also exists in humans. What might be the functional role of this matching system? One possible function is to enable an organism to detect certain mental states of observed conspecifics. This function might be part of, or a precursor to, a more general mind-reading ability. Two different accounts of mind-reading have been suggested. According to `theory theory', mental states are represented as inferred posits of a naive theory. According to `simulation theory', other people's mental states are represented by adopting their perspective: by tracking or matching their states with resonant states of one's own. The activity of mirror neurons, and the fact that observers undergo motor facilitation in the same muscular groups as those utilized by target agents, are findings that accord well with simulation theory but would not be predicted by theory theory.

PMID:
21227300

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