Birds have been shown to have imitative resonance behaviors and neurological evidence suggests the presence of some form of mirroring system. The function of the mirror system in humans is a subject of much speculation. They argue that mirror neurons may be important for understanding a different mirror chapter 5 pdf actions of other people, and for learning new skills by imitation.
In a study published in March 2005 Iacoboni and his colleagues reported that mirror neurons could discern whether another person who was picking up a cup of tea planned to drink from it or clear it from the table. However, there are scientists who express skepticism about the theories being advanced to explain the function of mirror neurons. Remember too that there are many different types of mirror neuron. And that we’re still trying to establish for sure whether they exist in humans, and how they compare with the monkey versions. To date, no widely accepted neural or computational models have been put forward to describe how mirror neuron activity supports cognitive functions. The subject of mirror neurons continues to generate intense debate. During each experiment, the researchers allowed the monkey to reach for pieces of food, and recorded from single neurons in the monkey’s brain, thus measuring the neuron’s response to certain movements.
They found that some neurons responded when the monkey observed a person picking up a piece of food, and also when the monkey itself picked up the food. The most common theory behind the origin of mirror neuron is the genetic account which suggests that the mirrorness of mirror neurons is due primarily to heritable genetic factors and that the genetic predisposition to develop Mirror neuron evolved because they facilitate action understanding. These properties have led researchers to believe that mirror neurons encode abstract concepts of actions like ‘ripping paper’, whether the action is performed by the monkey or another animal. The function of mirror neurons in macaques remains unknown. Adult macaques do not seem to learn by imitation. Even if it has not yet been empirically demonstrated, it has been proposed that mirror neurons underlie this behaviour and other imitative phenomena. Indeed, there is limited understanding of the degree to which monkeys show imitative behaviour.
In adult monkeys, mirror neurons may enable the monkey to understand what another monkey is doing, or to recognise the other monkey’s action. The inferior frontal lobe is the lower part of the blue area, and the superior parietal lobe is the upper part of the yellow area. It is not normally possible to study single neurons in the human brain, so most evidence for mirror neurons in humans is indirect. It has been suggested that these brain regions contain mirror neurons, and they have been defined as the human mirror neuron system.
More recent experiments have shown that even at the level of single participants, scanned using fMRI, large areas containing multiple fMRI voxels increase their activity both during the observation and execution of actions. Neuropsychological studies looking at lesion areas that cause action knowledge, pantomime interpretation, and biological motion perception deficits have pointed to a causal link between the integrity of the inferior frontal gyrus and these behaviours. These results indicate the activation in mirror neuron related areas are unlikely to be just epiphenomenal. A study published in April 2010 reports recordings from single neurons with mirror properties in the human brain. 21 patients who were being treated at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center for intractable epilepsy. The patients had been implanted with intracranial depth electrodes to identify seizure foci for potential surgical treatment.