The anthropomorphic brain: the mirror neuron system responds to human and robotic actions

Neuroimage. 2007 May 1;35(4):1674-84. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.02.003. Epub 2007 Feb 13.


In humans and monkeys the mirror neuron system transforms seen actions into our inner representation of these actions. Here we asked if this system responds also if we see an industrial robot perform similar actions. We localised the motor areas involved in the execution of hand actions, presented the same subjects blocks of movies of humans or robots perform a variety of actions. The mirror system was activated strongly by the sight of both human and robotic actions, with no significant differences between these two agents. Finally we observed that seeing a robot perform a single action repeatedly within a block failed to activate the mirror system. This latter finding suggests that previous studies may have failed to find mirror activations to robotic actions because of the repetitiveness of the presented actions. Our findings suggest that the mirror neuron system could contribute to the understanding of a wider range of actions than previously assumed, and that the goal of an action might be more important for mirror activations than the way in which the action is performed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motion Pictures
  • Movement / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Robotics*