Expanding the mirror: vicarious activity for actions, emotions, and sensations

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2009 Dec;19(6):666-71. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2009.10.006. Epub 2009 Oct 31.


We often empathically share the states of others. The discovery of 'mirror neurons' suggested a neural mechanism for monkeys to share the actions of others. Here we expand this view by showing that mirror neurons for actions not only exist in the premotor cortex or in monkeys and that vicarious activity can also be measured for the emotions and sensations of others. Although we still need to empirically explore the function and development of these vicarious activations, we should stop thinking of vicarious brain activity as a peculiar property of the premotor cortex: instead it seems to be a very common phenomenon which leads social stimuli to recruit a wide range of seemingly private neural systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Social Perception