Mirror Neurons in Humans?

Mirror neurons were so named after Rizzolatti and colleagues’ serendipitous discovery during single-cell recording in macaques: A set of neurons in ventrolateral premotor cortex was reported to discharge both when the monkey spontaneously executed an action, such as reaching for a pellet, and when the monkey spontaneously observed a conspecific executing the same action. It is widely believed that mirror neurons have been documented in humans and that human mirror neurons underlie a wide array of phenomena, from speech perception to mind reading. However, the human neuroimaging studies most frequently cited as evidence for mirror neurons in humans have failed to provide that evidence, leading Rizzolatti and his colleagues to caution that “brain imaging experiments carried out in humans have failed up to now to convincingly demonstrate the existence of a cortical circuit similar to that described in the monkey.” Other studies purporting to provide evidence for the existence of mirror neurons in humans have introduced a tautology into their definition of mirror neurons, and several studies were critically confounded.