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Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Oct 16;7:679. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00679. eCollection 2013.

A transcranial magnetic stimulation study of the effect of visual orientation on the putative human mirror neuron system.

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1
Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre, The Alfred and Central Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University Melbourne, VIC, Australia.

Abstract

Mirror neurons are a class of motor neuron that are active during both the performance and observation of behavior, and have been implicated in interpersonal understanding. There is evidence to suggest that the mirror response is modulated by the perspective from which an action is presented (e.g., egocentric or allocentric). Most human research, however, has only examined this when presenting intransitive actions. Twenty-three healthy adult participants completed a transcranial magnetic stimulation experiment that assessed corticospinal excitability whilst viewing transitive hand gestures from both egocentric (i.e., self) and allocentric (i.e., other) viewpoints. Although action observation was associated with increases in corticospinal excitability (reflecting putative human mirror neuron activity), there was no effect of visual perspective. These findings are discussed in the context of contemporary theories of mirror neuron ontogeny, including models concerning associative learning and evolutionary adaptation.

KEYWORDS:

action observation; associative learning; electromyography; mirror neurons; transcranial magnetic stimulation; visual perspective

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