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Abstract

Neurons of the rostral part of inferior premotor cortex of the monkey discharge during goal-directed hand movements such as grasping, holding, and tearing. We report here that many of these neurons become active also when the monkey observes specific, meaningful hand movements performed by the experimenters. The effective experimenters' movements include among others placing or retrieving a piece of food from a table, grasping food from another experimenter's hand, and manipulating objects. There is always a clear link between the effective observed movement and that executed by the monkey and, often, only movements of the experimenter identical to those controlled by a given neuron are able to activate it. These findings indicate that premotor neurons can retrieve movements not only on the basis of stimulus characteristics, as previously described, but also on the basis of the meaning of the observed actions.
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... The Mirror neurons system (MNS) supports the presence of a perception-actioncoupling mechanism (for a review see Rizzolatti & Sinigaglia, 2010;. Mirror neurons were first discovered in the ventral premotor area (area F5) of the macaque monkey as a particular class of visuomotor neurons increasing their firing rate both when the monkey performs a specific motor act and when it observes another monkey (or the experimenter) performing the same or a very similar action (Di Pellegrino et al., 1992;Rizzolatti et al., 1996a;Umiltà et al., 2001). The term "mirror" derives from their physiological properties supporting the idea that the observed action is "reflected" in the observer's motor system. ...
... fMRI studies revealed the areas involved in the humans mirror neurons system. These areas include the ventral (Buccino et al., 2004;Aziz-Zadeh et al., 2006) and dorsal premotor cortex Gazzola et al., 2007), inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), Broadman area (BA 44; Iacoboni et al., 1999), which is considered as the human homologous of monkey area F5 (Di Pellegrino et al., 1992) and the rostral inferior parietal lobule (homologous of monkey area PF; Buccino et al., 2004;Aziz-Zadeh et al., 2006). In summary, these studies revealed regions in humans which have similar anatomical and functional network as those described in monkeys. ...
Thesis
Empathy allows us to understand and react to other people feelings. Regarding empathy for pain, a witness looking at a painful situation may react to other-oriented and prosocial-altruistic behaviors or self-oriented withdrawal responses. The main aim of this thesis was to study approach/avoidance and freezing behavioral manifestations that co-occurring along with both others’ pain observation and during the anticipation of pain. In two perspective-taking tasks, we investigated the influence of the type of relationship between the witness and the target in pain. Results showed that higher pain ratings, lower reactions times (experiment 1) and greater withdrawal avoidance postural responses (experiment 2) were attributed when participants adopted their most loved person perspective. In experiment 3, we analyzed the freezing behavior in the observer’s corticospinal system while subject was observing painful stimuli in first-and third-person perspectives. Results showed the pain-specific freezing effect only pertained to the first-person perspective condition. An empathy for pain interpretation suggests empathy might represent the anticipation of painful stimulation in oneself. In experiment 4 results, we found that the freezing effect present during a painful electrical stimulation was also present in the anticipation of pain. In conclusion, our studies suggest that cognitive perspective-taking mechanisms mainly modulate the empathic response and the most loved person perspective seems to be prevalent. In addition, more basic pain-specific corticospinal modulations are mainly present in the first-person perspective and it seems to not be referred to the empathy components
... This means that when we observe other people's actions, this visual stimulus is immediately and automatically translated into motor terms. This translation is realized by means of mirror neurons which are multimodal neurons, firstly identified in fronto-parietal areas, that respond both to action observation and to action execution (di Pellegrino et al., 1992). ...
... During the observation of an action performed by another individual, a mechanism provided by the mirror neuron system (MNS) allows the observer to automatically understand another's action by matching its visual description onto her/his motor representation of the same action (Rizzolatti et al., 2014). Mirror neurons have been originally found in monkey ventral premotor cortex (F5) and then in the inferior parietal lobule (PFG) (Di Pellegrino et al., 1992;Fogassi et al., 2005); subsequently, neurons with mirror properties have been found in other cortical areas, such as, for example, the anterior intraparietal area (AIP) (Lanzilotto et al., 2019;Maeda et al., 2015), dorsal premotor cortex (PMd) (Papadourakis & Raos, 2019;Tkach et al., 2007) and presupplementary motor cortex (pre-SMA) (Lanzilotto et al., 2016;Yoshida et al., 2011). ...
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Action observation typically recruits visual areas and dorsal and ventral sectors of the parietal and premotor cortex. This network has been collectively termed as extended action observation network (eAON). Within this network, the elaboration of kine-matic aspects of biological motion is crucial. Previous studies investigated these aspects by presenting subjects with point-light displays (PLDs) videos of whole-body movements, showing the recruitment of some of the eAON areas. However, studies focused on cortical activation during observation of PLDs grasping actions are lacking. In the present functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we assessed the activation of eAON in healthy participants during the observation of both PLDs and fully visible hand grasping actions, excluding confounding effects due to low-level visual features, motion, and context. Results showed that the observation of PLDs grasping stimuli elicited a bilateral activation of the eAON. Region of interest analyses performed on visual and sensorimotor areas showed no significant differences in signal intensity between PLDs and fully visible experimental conditions, indicating that both conditions evoked a similar motor resonance mechanism. Multivoxel pattern analysis (MVPA) revealed significant decoding of PLDs and fully visible grasping observation conditions in occipital, parietal, and premotor areas belonging to eAON. Data show that kinematic features conveyed by PLDs stimuli are sufficient to elicit a complete action representation, suggesting that these features can be disentangled within the eAON from the features usually characterizing fully visible actions. PLDs stimuli could be useful in assessing which areas are recruited, when only kinematic cues are available, for action recognition, imitation, and motor learning.
... [48] Rizzolatti et al. discovered a new class of premotor visuomotor neurons, called mirror neurons, that discharge both when the monkey executes goal-related actions like grasping objects and also when the monkey observes other individuals (monkeys or humans) execute similar actions. [49][50][51] Later on, so-called prefrontal mirror neurons with similar properties were discovered in a part of the posterior parietal cortex reciprocally connected with area F5. [52] Existence of a mirror neuron system at premotor and parietal areas in the human brain has been demonstrated in different studies. [53][54][55] The findings on the infant-mother relationship clearly suggest that the human nervous system is formed in such a way to enable us to capture others' living experiences just by watching them. ...
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Chapter
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