Humans imitate biological movements faster than non-biological movements. The faster response has been attributed to an activation of the human mirror neuron system, which is thought to match observation and execution of actions. However, it is unclear which cortical areas are responsible for this behavioural advantage. Also, little is known about the timing of activations. Using whole-head magnetoencephalography we recorded neuronal responses to single biological finger movements and non-biological dot movements while the subjects were required to perform an imitation task or an observation task, respectively. Previous imaging studies on the human mirror neurone system suggested that activation in response to biological movements would be stronger in ventral premotor, parietal and superior temporal regions. In accordance with previous studies, reaction times to biological movements were faster than those to dot movements in all subjects. The analysis of evoked magnetic fields revealed that the reaction time benefit was paralleled by stronger and earlier activation of the left temporo-occipital cortex, right superior temporal area and right ventral motor/premotor area. The activity patterns suggest that the latter areas mediate the observed behavioural advantage of biological movements and indicate a predominant contribution of the right temporo-frontal hemisphere to action observation–execution matching processes in intransitive movements, which has not been reported previously.
- mirror neurone system