Mirror neurons: a definition

Professor Christian Keysers explains that mirror neurons in the premotor cortex respond when we perform an action and also when we see someone else perform that action. This is similar to empathy.

Mirror neurons are a set of neurons that we discovered in the premotor cortex of the monkey. Now this is a region that had been known for a long time to be important for when the monkey himself would perform an action; so if a monkey would take a peanut for instance and break it, the premotor cortex contains the neurons that would actually set this program in motion. Now what makes mirror neurons special in that area is that they do not only respond when the monkey performs that action, but also if the monkey would see you perform a similar action. And therefore what they show us is that in our brain we have mechanisms (brain circuits) that basically transform the sight of someone else’s action into the motor program that we would use to perform the same action. And with a system like that, what happens is that if we see someone take a glass and drink it on a hot summer day, we don’t just see him drink it, but we literally feel inside of ourselves how good it would be to drink the glass ourselves.

mirror neurons, mirror system, empathy, , premotor cortex, brain circuits, christian, keysers