Mirror Neurons - Different Types

Researchers have identified three types of mirror neurons that respond to stimuli - 1) in reaching distance, 2) outside of reaching distance, and 3) both distances.

Mirror neurons, an intriguing class of brain cells thought to enable us to mimic others’ movements and perhaps learn to speak, may come in three distinct types, which researchers suggest could help explain the brain’s basis for intent and cooperation. Discovered in monkeys 11 years ago, mirror neurons—brain cells that become active both when relaying signals for carrying out a specific action and when observing that action being performed by others—have now been directly observed in humans, researchers at the meeting said. In one recent study, Peter Their and colleagues at Tübingen University in Germany observed three distinct classes of these cells in monkeys. Their’s team recorded single-cell activity in mirror neurons while the animals observed and performed actions. The first neuron class fired only when the action occurred within the monkey’s reaching distance (regardless of whether the action was performed or merely observed by the monkey). The second class fired only when the action was performed in “extrapersonal” space, beyond the monkey’s reach. The third class responded in both cases. “Mirror neurons are moderated by … where the action takes place,” researcher Antonio Casile said. He went on to speculate, “Maybe they cover three possible cognitive roles. In particular, mirror neurons that respond only to interpersonal space might be for … actions that the monkey can modify.” The neurons that fired when an action was performed outside of the monkey’s reach may stem from “a primitive system for recognizing the actions of others,” Casile added. Their suggested that the proximity-specific activity might figure into the brain’s understanding of the intentions of others and cooperative behavior.

mirror, neuron, cell, space, interpersonal, extrapersonal, reaching, distance, proximity

  • ID: 1287
  • Source: DNALC.G2C

Related Content

852. Mirror Neurons and Empathy

Empathy, research indicates, is made possible by a special group of nerve cells called mirror neurons.

  • ID: 852
  • Source: G2C

871. Mirror Neurons and Autism (2)

Abnormalities in a specific type of brain cells called mirror neurons have been associated with autism.

  • ID: 871
  • Source: G2C

851. Developing Mirror Neurons

Mirror neurons provide an important shortcut to learning new movements.

  • ID: 851
  • Source: G2C

854. Einstein's Brain

Einstein's brain, was it different to yours?

  • ID: 854
  • Source: G2C

2239. Language

An overview of language-related content on Genes to Cognition Online.

  • ID: 2239
  • Source: G2C

1972. Mirror neurons and autism

Professor Christian Keysers discusses the proposed association between autism and mirror neurons, a very hot topic in autism research.

  • ID: 1972
  • Source: G2C

1974. Biochemistry of autism (mirror neurons)

Professor Christian Keysers discusses the hypothesis linking autism, mirror neurons, and synaptic proteins.

  • ID: 1974
  • Source: G2C

1975. Autism

An overview of autism-related content on Genes to Cognition Online.

  • ID: 1975
  • Source: G2C

485. GABA Neurotransmitter

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a very common neurotransmitter in the Central Nervous System, whose primary function is to inhibit the transmission of a signal through a neuron.

  • ID: 485
  • Source: G2C

890. Background to Depression

Although writers have described episodes of depression since antiquity, only recently have we recognized that the depressive disorders are among the most common and disabling medical conditions throughout the world.

  • ID: 890
  • Source: G2C