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Soc Neurosci. 2011;6(4):388-97. doi: 10.1080/17470919.2011.559129.

Understanding motor resonance.

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Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


The discovery of mirror neurons in monkeys, and the finding of motor activity during action observation in humans are generally regarded to support motor theories of action understanding. These theories take motor resonance to be essential in the understanding of observed actions and the inference of action goals. However, the notions of "resonance," "action understanding," and "action goal" appear to be used ambiguously in the literature. A survey of the literature on mirror neurons and motor resonance yields two different interpretations of the term "resonance," three different interpretations of action understanding, and again three different interpretations of what the goal of an action is. This entails that, unless it is specified what interpretation is used, the meaning of any statement about the relation between these concepts can differ to a great extent. By discussing an experiment we will show that more precise definitions and use of the concepts will allow for better assessments of motor theories of action understanding and hence a more fruitful scientific debate. Lastly, we will provide an example of how the discussed experimental setup could be adapted to test other interpretations of the concepts.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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