Mirror neurons: expanded definition

Professor Christian Keysers explains the mirror neuron may be explained by the "what fires together, wires together" principle.

Now the way we think mirror neurons work, and I’ll link to very simple learning rules; the fact that if you imagine a young infant finding out about his own body, and for instance setting in motion a motor program that will make him grasp an object, what happens is that the infant is able to see his own arm perform this action at the very moment his premotor neurons are setting the action in motion. And what that means is that the visual representation of the action co-occurs with the motor activations, and then the simple learning rule “what fires together, wires together” will tend to link together the sight of your own action with the motor program to execute it. And then what happens is that if I see you do a similar action, I basically reactivate the visual representations that are similar to my own actions, and this sets in motion the activation of the motor programs that are normally associated during my own actions. In a way it’s nothing more than the dogs of Pavlov starting to salivate each time they hear the bell, except that in this case it’s not a random association but one between what an action looks like and what it takes to make the action.

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