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The human mirror system has been the subject of much research over the past two decades, but little is known about the timecourse of mirror responses. In addition, it is unclear whether mirror and counter-mirror effects follow the same timecourse. We used single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation to investigate the timecourse of mirror and counter-mirror responses in the human brain. Experiment 1 demonstrated that mirror responses can be measured from around 200 ms after observed action onset. Experiment 2 demonstrated significant effects of counter-mirror sensorimotor training at all timepoints at which a mirror response was found in Experiment 1 (i.e. from 200 ms onward), indicating that mirror and counter-mirror responses follow the same timecourse. By suggesting similarly direct routes for mirror and counter-mirror responses, these results support the associative account of mirror neuron origins whereby mirror responses arise as a result of correlated sensorimotor experience during development. More generally, they contribute to theorizing regarding mirror neuron function by providing some constraints on how quickly mirror responses can influence social cognition.

Original publication




Journal article


Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci

Publication Date





1082 - 1088


mirror neuron, mirror neuron system, sensorimotor learning, timecourse, transcranial magnetic stimulation, Adolescent, Adult, Electromyography, Evoked Potentials, Motor, Female, Hand, Humans, Imitative Behavior, Male, Middle Aged, Mirror Neurons, Motor Cortex, Muscle, Skeletal, Practice (Psychology), Psychomotor Performance, Reaction Time, Time Factors, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, Visual Perception, Young Adult