Researchers find link between seeing and thinking

November 12, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers at UQ's Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) have discovered an important new link between how we see an action – and the way our mind processes that visual stimulation.

For more than a decade, scientists have hypothesized that the brain contains a system of ‘mirror neurons', which help an observer to mentally correlate perceived actions with pre-learned movements.

For the first time, QBI scientists Professor Jason Mattingley and Associate Professor Ross Cunnington and their colleagues have demonstrated the human brain does indeed have a mechanism to capture
observed and executed actions as a type of generic neural code.

“Until now, evidence for such a mechanism has been lacking,” Professor Mattingley said.

“The mirror-neuron system has received much interest in recent years because it is thought to have an important role in a range of human responses such as empathy and observational learning.

“Dysfunction of the mirror system has been linked with such clinical disorders as apraxia, autism and schizophrenia.”

While monitoring their subjects using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers asked a group of volunteers to make a series of simple hand gestures.

Participants first performed a set of two-to-five pantomimed hand actions, and subsequently observed an equivalent number of actions that were either the same or different from those in the preceding set.

“Data gathered from these experiments show that a particular part of the brain encodes specific actions, regardless of whether those actions are executed or passively observed,” Professor Mattingley said.

As the mirror-neuron system is also linked with new developments in the so-called “theory of mind”, Professor Mattingley's research will have implications for investigations into a wide range of human cognitive processes.

The research results, “fMRI adaptation reveals mirror neurons in human inferior parietal cortex”, were published in Current Biology.

Provided by University of Queensland

Explore further: Study analyzes mutations in cerebrospinal fluid in lung cancer with brain metastases

Related Stories

Paving the way to a drug for post-partum depression

November 15, 2017

For women with postpartum depression—by some estimates, nearly one in five new mothers—the announcement last week of positive results in clinical trials of a drug to help alleviate their symptoms was welcome news.

Medical Innovations for Africa

November 15, 2017

Ebola, malaria, tuberculosis: These are the three best known poverty-related diseases affecting millions of people. They are predominantly encountered in poor countries due to the inadequate medical care there. Another reason ...

Recommended for you

NASA telescope studies quirky comet 45P

November 22, 2017

When comet 45P zipped past Earth early in 2017, researchers observing from NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility, or IRTF, in Hawai'i gave the long-time trekker a thorough astronomical checkup. The results help fill in crucial ...

How to cut your lawn for grasshoppers

November 22, 2017

Picture a grasshopper landing randomly on a lawn of fixed area. If it then jumps a certain distance in a random direction, what shape should the lawn be to maximise the chance that the grasshopper stays on the lawn after ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.