Corticospinal mirror neurons

  • Kraskov A
  • Philipp R
  • Waldert S
 et al. 
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Abstract

Here, we report the properties of neurons with mirror-like characteristics that were identified as pyramidal tract neurons (PTNs) and recorded in the ventral premotor cortex (area F5) and primary motor cortex (M1) of three macaque monkeys.We analysed the neurons’ discharge while the monkeys performed active grasp of either food or an object, and also while they observed an exper- imenter carrying out a similar range of grasps. A considerable proportion of tested PTNs showed clear mirror-like properties (52% F5 and 58% M1). Some PTNs exhibited ‘classical’ mirror neuron properties, increasing activity for both execution and observation, while others decreased their discharge during observation (‘suppression mirror-neurons’). These experiments not only demonstrate the existence of PTNs as mirror neurons in M1, but also reveal someinteresting differences betweenM1and F5 mirrorPTNs. Although observation-related changes in the discharge of PTNs must reach the spinal cord and will include some direct projections to motoneurons supplying grasping muscles, there was no EMG activity in these muscles during action observation.We suggest that the mirror neuron system is involved in the with- holding of unwanted movement during action observation. Mirror neurons are differentially recruited in the behaviour that switches rapidly between making your own movements and observing those of others.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Corticospinal system
  • Grasp
  • Hand
  • Mirror neuron
  • Motor cortex

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