Where there is a goal, there is a way: What, why and how the parieto-frontal mirror network can mediate imitative behaviours

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The relationships between mirror neurons (MNs) and motor imitation, and its clinical implications in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have been widely investigated; however, the literature remains - at least partially - controversial. In this review we support a multi-level action understanding model focusing on the mirror-based understanding. We review the functional role of the parieto-frontal MNs (PFMN) network claiming that PFMNs function cannot be limited to imitation nor can imitation be explained solely by the activity of PFMNs. The distinction between movement, motor act and motor action is useful to characterize deeply both act(ion) understanding and imitation of act(ion). A more abstract representation of act(ion) may be crucial for clarifying what, why and how an imitator is imitating. What counts in social interactions is achieving goals: it does not matter which effector or string of motor acts you eventually use for achieving (proximal and distal) goals. Similarly, what counts is the ability to recognize/imitate the style of act(ion) regardless of the way in which it is expressed. We address this crucial point referring to its potential implications in ASD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-193
Number of pages17
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Volume47
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Motor cognition
  • Motor imitation
  • Parieto-frontal mirror circuit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Medicine(all)

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