The mirror neuron system and the consequences of its dysfunction

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2006 Dec;7(12):942-51. doi: 10.1038/nrn2024. Epub 2006 Nov 8.


The discovery of premotor and parietal cells known as mirror neurons in the macaque brain that fire not only when the animal is in action, but also when it observes others carrying out the same actions provides a plausible neurophysiological mechanism for a variety of important social behaviours, from imitation to empathy. Recent data also show that dysfunction of the mirror neuron system in humans might be a core deficit in autism, a socially isolating condition. Here, we review the neurophysiology of the mirror neuron system and its role in social cognition and discuss the clinical implications of mirror neuron dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autistic Disorder / physiopathology
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology
  • Cerebral Cortex* / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex* / physiology
  • Empathy
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior* / physiology
  • Neural Pathways* / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways* / physiology
  • Neurons* / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Social Behavior Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Social Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Social Behavior*