The mirror neuron system (ventro-lateral prefrontal cortex, inferior parietal lobe, superior temporal sulcus) and its emotional-social annexe (medial prefrontal cortex, insula and amygdala) are activated either during self-initiated execution of actions or during the observation of these actions carried out by another person. These actions also include subtle emotional displays. Imitation learning as well as empathizing may result from this mechanism. However, the question arises how the initiation of self- and other initiated-actions can be distinguished. Efference copy mechanisms are thought to be involved in the differentiation between these alternatives. If is assumed that this mechanism provides a feeling of agency for actions, thoughts and emotions. A dysfunction of the mirror neuron system may underlie autism and disorders of affect in schizophrenia. Dysfunctions of the efference copy mechanism may underlay passivity symptoms (ego-disturbances) and hallucinations in patients with schizophrenia.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)