Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

A core requirement for imitation is a capacity to solve the correspondence problem; to map observed onto executed actions, even when observation and execution yield sensory inputs in different modalities and coordinate frames. Until recently, it was assumed that the human capacity to solve the correspondence problem is innate. However, it is now becoming apparent that, as predicted by the associative sequence learning model, experience, and especially sensorimotor experience, plays a critical role in the development of imitation. We review evidence from studies of non-human animals, children and adults, focusing on research in cognitive neuroscience that uses training and naturally occurring variations in expertise to examine the role of experience in the formation of the mirror system. The relevance of this research depends on the widely held assumption that the mirror system plays a causal role in generating imitative behaviour. We also report original data supporting this assumption. These data show that theta-burst transcranial magnetic stimulation of the inferior frontal gyrus, a classical mirror system area, disrupts automatic imitation of finger movements. We discuss the implications of the evidence reviewed for the evolution, development and intentional control of imitation.

Original publication

DOI

10.1098/rstb.2009.0048

Type

Journal article

Journal

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci

Publication Date

27/08/2009

Volume

364

Pages

2369 - 2380

Keywords

Animals, Association Learning, Brain, Humans, Imitative Behavior, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Motor Activity, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation