Eight problems for the mirror neuron theory of action understanding in monkeys and humans

J Cogn Neurosci. 2009 Jul;21(7):1229-43. doi: 10.1162/jocn.2009.21189.


The discovery of mirror neurons in macaque frontal cortex has sparked a resurgence of interest in motor/embodied theories of cognition. This critical review examines the evidence in support of one of these theories, namely, that mirror neurons provide the basis of action understanding. It is argued that there is no evidence from monkey data that directly tests this theory, and evidence from humans makes a strong case against the position.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Haplorhini
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Motor Skills / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*