Mirror neurons responding to the observation of ingestive and communicative mouth actions in the monkey ventral premotor cortex

Eur J Neurosci. 2003 Apr;17(8):1703-14. doi: 10.1046/j.1460-9568.2003.02601.x.


In the ventral premotor cortex (area F5) of the monkey there are neurons that discharge both when the monkey performs specific motor actions and when it observes another individual performing a similar action (mirror neurons). Previous studies on mirror neurons concerned hand actions. Here, we describe the mirror responses of F5 neurons that motorically code mouth actions. The results showed that about one-third of mouth motor neurons also discharge when the monkey observes another individual performing mouth actions. The majority of these 'mouth mirror neurons' become active during the execution and observation of mouth actions related to ingestive functions such as grasping, sucking or breaking food. Another population of mouth mirror neurons also discharges during the execution of ingestive actions, but the most effective visual stimuli in triggering them are communicative mouth gestures (e.g. lip smacking). Some also fire when the monkey makes communicative gestures. These findings extend the notion of mirror system from hand to mouth action and suggest that area F5, the area considered to be the homologue of human Broca's area, is also involved in communicative functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Electromyography
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Imitative Behavior / physiology*
  • Macaca nemestrina
  • Microelectrodes
  • Motor Cortex / physiology
  • Mouth / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology