The mirror system, theory of mind and Parkinson's disease

  • Alegre M
  • Guridi J
  • Artieda J
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Abstract

The mirror system includes a group of neurons in the monkey cortex that discharge both when a movement is executed and when that same movement is observed. An equivalent system in humans has been proposed to mediate action and emotion understanding, being therefore related to theory of mind. Theory of mind (TOM) is the ability to infer our own or, more frequently, other person's mental states. It is severely impaired in disorders of the autistic spectrum, but it is also affected in other neurological diseases including Parkinson's disease (PD). Two recent studies have shown that the basal ganglia may be involved in action observation, as the subthalamic nucleus shows changes in activity during movement observation similar to those observed during movement execution. These findings suggest that the basal ganglia may be involved in mirror circuit activity, which might be affected in PD in a similar way to normal movement execution. Given the relationship between the mirror system and theory of mind, we hypothesize that TOM deficits in PD might be at least partially mediated by mirror system dysfunction. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Mirror neuron system
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Subthalamic nucleus
  • Theory of mind

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