Mirror neurons are premotor neurons, originally discovered in the macaque brain , that discharge both during execution of goal-directed actions and during the observation of similar actions executed by another individual. They therefore ‘mirror’ others’ actions on the observer's motor repertoire. In the last decade an impressive amount of work has been devoted to the study of their properties and to investigate if they are present also in our species. Neuroimaging and electrophysiological techniques have shown that a mirror-neuron system does exist in the human brain as well. Among ‘mirror’ human areas, Broca’s area (the frontal area for speech production) is almost constantly activated by action observation. This suggests a possible evolutionary link between action understanding and verbal communication. In the most recent years, mirror-like phenomena have been demonstrated also for domains others than the pure motor one. Examples of that are the somatosensory and the emotional systems, possibly providing a neurophysiological basis to phenomena such as embodiment and empathy. This special issue collects some of the most representative works on the mirror-neuron system to give a panoramic view on current research and to stimulate new experiments in this exciting field.
C. Keysers, L. Fadiga, The Mirror Neuron System. S. Pichon, B. de Gelder, J. Grezes, Emotional Modulation of Visual and Motor Areas by Dynamic Body Expressions of Anger. H. van Schie, T. Koelewijn, O. Jensen, R. Oostenveld, E. Maris, H. Bekkering, Evidence for Fast, Low Level Motor Resonance to Action Observation: An MEG Study. L. Aziz-Zedeh, C. Fiebach, S. Naranayan, J. Feldman, E. Dodge, R. Ivry, Modulation of the FFA and PPA by Language Related to Faces and Places. P.F. Ferrari, G. Coudé, V. Gallese, L. Fogassi, Having Access to Others' Mind Through Gaze: The Role of Ontogenetic and Learning Processes in Gaze Following Behavior of Macaques. N. Fujii, S. Hihara, A. Iriki, Social Cognition in Premotor and Parietal Cortex. F. Lui, G. Buccino, D. Duzzi, F. Benuzzi, G. Crisi, P. Baraldi, P. Nichelli, C. Porro, G. Rizzolatti, Neural Substrates for Observing and Imagining Non Object-directed Actions. P. Borroni, F. Baldissera, Activation of Motor Pathways During Observation and Execution of Hand Movements. M. Gangitano, F. Mottaghy, A. Pascuale-Leone, Release of Premotor Activity After Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation of Prefrontal Cortex. T. Paus, R. Toro, G. Leonard, J. Lerner, R.M. Lerner, M. Perron, G.B. Pike, L. Richer, L. Steinberg, S. Veillette, Z. Pausova, Morphological Properties of the Action-observation Cortical Network in Adolescents with Low and High Resistance to Peer Influence. V. Gallese, Mirror Neurons and the Social Nature of Language: The Neural Exploitation Hypothesis. N. Pär, The Infant Mirror Neuron System Studied with High Density EEG. L. Oberman, V. Ramachandran, Preliminary Evidence for Deficits in Multisensory Integration in Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Mirror Neuron Hypothesis. M. Jeannerod, T. Anquetil, Putting Oneself in the Perspective of the Other: A Framework for the Self/Other Differentiation. A. Engel, M. Burke, K. Fiehler, S. Bien, F. Rösler, How Moving Objects Become Animated: The Human Mirror Neuron System Assimilates Non-biological Movement Patterns. F. de Vignemont, P. Haggard, Action Observation and Execution: What is Shared? M. Candidi, C. Urgesi, S. Ionta, S. Aglioti, Virtual Lesion of Ventral Premotor Cortex Impairs Visual Perception of Biomechanically Possible But Not Impossible Actions. M. Saarela, R. Hari, Listening Humans Walking Together Activates the Social Brain Circuitry. S. Atmaca, N. Sebanz, W. Prinz, G. Knoblich, Action Co-representation: The Joint SNARC Effect. N. Pratt, K. Spencer, Emotional States Influence the Neural Processing of Affective Language.