Mirror neurons, the representation of word meaning, and the foot of the third left frontal convolution

de Zubicaray, G. I., Postle, N., McMahon, K., Meredith, M., & Ashton, R. (2010) Mirror neurons, the representation of word meaning, and the foot of the third left frontal convolution. Brain and Language, 112(1), pp. 77-84.

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Previous neuroimaging research has attempted to demonstrate a preferential involvement of the human mirror neuron system (MNS) in the comprehension of effector-related action word (verb) meanings. These studies have assumed that Broca's area (or Brodmann's area 44) is the homologue of a monkey premotor area (F5) containing mouth and hand mirror neurons, and that action word meanings are shared with the mirror system due to a proposed link between speech and gestural communication. In an fMRI experiment, we investigated whether Broca's area shows mirror activity solely for effectors implicated in the MNS. Next, we examined the responses of empirically determined mirror areas during a language perception task comprising effector-specific action words, unrelated words and nonwords. We found overlapping activity for observation and execution of actions with all effectors studied, i.e., including the foot, despite there being no evidence of foot mirror neurons in the monkey or human brain. These "mirror" areas showed equivalent responses for action words, unrelated words and nonwords, with all of these stimuli showing increased responses relative to visual character strings. Our results support alternative explanations attributing mirror activity in Broca's area to covert verbalisation or hierarchical linearisation, and provide no evidence that the MNS makes a preferential contribution to comprehending action word meanings.

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26 citations in Scopus
21 citations in Web of Science®
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ID Code: 85729
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Action observation, Broca's area, Imitation, Language comprehension, Mirror neurons, Phonology, Semantics
DOI: 10.1016/j.bandl.2008.09.011
ISSN: 1090-2155
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2008 Elsevier
Deposited On: 07 Oct 2015 02:09
Last Modified: 25 Jun 2017 05:01

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