Mirror Neurons Modeled Through Spike-Timing-Dependent Plasticity are Affected by Channelopathies Associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Int J Neural Syst. 2018 Jun;28(5):1750058. doi: 10.1142/S0129065717500587. Epub 2017 Nov 28.


Mirror neurons fire action potentials both when the agent performs a certain behavior and watches someone performing a similar action. Here, we present an original mirror neuron model based on the spike-timing-dependent plasticity (STDP) between two morpho-electrical models of neocortical pyramidal neurons. Both neurons fired spontaneously with basal firing rate that follows a Poisson distribution, and the STDP between them was modeled by the triplet algorithm. Our simulation results demonstrated that STDP is sufficient for the rise of mirror neuron function between the pairs of neocortical neurons. This is a proof of concept that pairs of neocortical neurons associating sensory inputs to motor outputs could operate like mirror neurons. In addition, we used the mirror neuron model to investigate whether channelopathies associated with autism spectrum disorder could impair the modeled mirror function. Our simulation results showed that impaired hyperpolarization-activated cationic currents (Ih) affected the mirror function between the pairs of neocortical neurons coupled by STDP.

Keywords: Mirror neurons; autism spectrum disorder; conductance based models; spike-timing-dependent plasticity.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Channelopathies / physiopathology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Ion Channels / metabolism
  • Mirror Neurons / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Neocortex / physiopathology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Perception / physiology
  • Proof of Concept Study
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology


  • Ion Channels