The mirror neuron system and the strange case of Broca's area

Gabriella Cerri, Monia Cabinio, Valeria Blasi, Paola Borroni, Antonella Iadanza, Enrica Fava, Luca Fornia, Valentina Ferpozzi, Marco Riva, Alessandra Casarotti, Filippo Martinelli Boneschi, Andrea Falini, Lorenzo Bello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mirror neurons, originally described in the monkey premotor area F5, are embedded in a frontoparietal network for action execution and observation. A similar Mirror Neuron System (MNS) exists in humans, including precentral gyrus, inferior parietal lobule, and superior temporal sulcus. Controversial is the inclusion of Broca's area, as homologous to F5, a relevant issue in light of the mirror hypothesis of language evolution, which postulates a key role of Broca's area in action/speech perception/production. We assess "mirror" properties of this area by combining neuroimaging and intraoperative neurophysiological techniques. Our results show that Broca's area is minimally involved in action observation and has no motor output on hand or phonoarticulatory muscles, challenging its inclusion in the MNS. The presence of these functions in premotor BA6 makes this area the likely homologue of F5 suggesting that the MNS may be involved in the representation of articulatory rather than semantic components of speech. Hum Brain Mapp 36:1010-1027, 2015.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1010-1027
Number of pages18
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2015


  • Broca's area
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Intraoperative brain mapping
  • Language
  • Mirror neurons
  • Motor control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anatomy
  • Neurology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology


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