The mirror neuron system is more active during complementary compared with imitative action


We assessed the role of the human mirror neuron system (MNS) in complementary actions using functional magnetic resonance imaging while participants prepared to execute imitative or complementary actions. The BOLD signal in the right inferior frontal gyrus and bilateral inferior parietal lobes was greater during preparation of complementary than during imitative actions, suggesting that the MNS may be essential in dynamically coupling action observation to action execution.

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Figure 1: A significant context × congruency interaction (P < 0.001) was found for color-change trials.
Figure 2


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The present study was supported by the EU-Project Joint Action Science and Technology (IST-FP6-003747).

Author information




R.D.N.-N. and A.M.J.v.Z. conducted the experiment and analyzed the data. R.D.N.-N. wrote the manuscript with contributions from A.M.J.v.Z., H.T.v.S and H.B. The project was supervised by H.B.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Roger D Newman-Norlund.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Fig. 1

Experimental stimuli and time course. (PDF 40 kb)

Supplementary Table 1

Locations in MNI coordinates and labels of brain areas involved in complementary actions in the current experiment. (PDF 9 kb)

Supplementary Table 2

Locations (in MNI coordinates) and Brodmann's labels (BA) for brain areas in which BOLD signal was significantly associated with facilitation effects (that is, fast responses – slow responses) observed in imitative and complementary contexts. (PDF 11 kb)

Supplementary Methods (PDF 17 kb)

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Newman-Norlund, R., van Schie, H., van Zuijlen, A. et al. The mirror neuron system is more active during complementary compared with imitative action. Nat Neurosci 10, 817–818 (2007).

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