More than one pathway to action understanding

Trends Cogn Sci. 2011 Aug;15(8):352-7. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2011.06.005. Epub 2011 Jul 19.


Many believe that the ability to understand the actions of others is made possible by mirror neurons and a network of brain areas known as the action-observation network (AON). Despite nearly two decades of research into mirror neurons and the AON, however, there is little evidence that they enable the inference of the intention of observed actions. Instead, theories of action selection during action execution indicate that a ventral pathway, linking middle temporal gyrus with the anterior inferior frontal gyrus, might encode these abstract features during action observation. Here I propose that action understanding requires more than merely the AON, and might be achieved through interactions between a ventral pathway and the dorsal AON.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Comprehension*
  • Haplorhini
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mirror Neurons / physiology*
  • Movement
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Oxygen / blood


  • Oxygen