OUP user menu

Action recognition in the premotor cortex

Vittorio Gallese, Luciano Fadiga, Leonardo Fogassi, Giacomo Rizzolatti
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/119.2.593 593-609 First published online: 1 April 1996

Summary

We recorded electrical activity from 532 neurons in the rostral part of inferior area 6 (area F5) of two macaque monkeys. Previous data had shown that neurons of this area discharge during goal-directed hand and mouth movements. We describe here the properties of a newly discovered set of F5 neurons (‘mirror neurons’, n = 92) all of which became active both when the monkey performed a given action and when it observed a similar action performed by the experimenter. Mirror neurons, in order to be visually triggered, required an interaction between the agent of the action and the object of it. The sight of the agent alone or of the object alone (three-dimensional objects, food) were ineffective. Hand and the mouth were by far the most effective agents. The actions most represented among those activating mirror neurons were grasping, manipulating and placing. In most mirror neurons (92%) there was a clear relation between the visual action they responded to and the motor response they coded. In ∼30% of mirror neurons the congruence was very strict and the effective observed and executed actions corresponded both in terms of general action (e.g. grasping) and in terms of the way in which that action was executed (e.g. precision grip). We conclude by proposing that mirror neurons form a system for matching observation and execution of motor actions. We discuss the possible role of this system in action recognition and, given the proposed homology between F5 and human Brocca’s region, we posit that a matching system, similar to that of mirror neurons exists in humans and could be involved in recognition of actions as well as phonetic gestures.

  • action encoding
  • visual responses
  • premotor cortex
  • macaque monkey