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J Neurosci. 2014 Mar 12;34(11):4108-19. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4187-13.2014.

Space-dependent representation of objects and other's action in monkey ventral premotor grasping neurons.

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Italian Institute of Technology, Brain Center for Social and Motor Cognition, 43125 Parma, Italy, and Department of Neuroscience, University of Parma, 43125 Parma, Italy.


The macaque ventral premotor area F5 hosts two types of visuomotor grasping neurons: "canonical" neurons, which respond to visually presented objects and underlie visuomotor transformation for grasping, and "mirror" neurons, which respond during the observation of others' action, likely playing a role in action understanding. Some previous evidence suggested that canonical and mirror neurons could be anatomically segregated in different sectors of area F5. Here we investigated the functional properties of single neurons in the hand field of area F5 using various tasks similar to those originally designed to investigate visual responses to objects and actions. By using linear multielectrode probes, we were able to simultaneously record different types of neurons and to precisely localize their cortical depth. We recorded 464 neurons, of which 243 showed visuomotor properties. Canonical and mirror neurons were often present in the same cortical sites; and, most interestingly, a set of neurons showed both canonical and mirror properties, discharging to object presentation as well as during the observation of experimenter's goal-directed acts (canonical-mirror neurons). Typically, visual responses to objects were constrained to the monkey peripersonal space, whereas action observation responses were less space-selective. Control experiments showed that space-constrained coding of objects mostly relies on an operational (action possibility) rather than metric (absolute distance) reference frame. Interestingly, canonical-mirror neurons appear to code object as target for both one's own and other's action, suggesting that they could play a role in predictive representation of others' impending actions.


area F5; canonical neurons; macaque; mirror neurons; visuomotor neurons

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