A PET exploration of the neural mechanisms involved in reciprocal imitation

Neuroimage. 2002 Jan;15(1):265-72. doi: 10.1006/nimg.2001.0938.


Imitation is a natural mechanism involving perception-action coupling which plays a central role in the development of understanding that other people, like the self, are mental agents. PET was used to examine the hemodynamic changes occurring in a reciprocal imitation paradigm. Eighteen subjects (a) imitated the actions of the experimenter, (b) had their actions imitated by the experimenter, (c) freely produced actions, or (d) freely produced actions while watching different actions made by the experimenter. In a baseline condition, subjects simply watched the experimenter's actions. Specific increases were detected in the left STS and in the inferior parietal cortex in conditions involving imitation. The left inferior parietal is specifically involved in producing imitation, whereas the right homologous region is more activated when one's own actions are imitated by another person. This pattern of results suggests that these regions play a specific role in distinguishing internally produced actions from those generated by others.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Imitative Behavior / physiology
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Parietal Lobe / diagnostic imaging*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Temporal Lobe / diagnostic imaging*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*