Responses of mirror neurons in area F5 to hand and tool grasping observation

Magali J. Rochat, Fausto Caruana, Ahmad Jezzini, Ludovic Escola, Irakli Intskirveli, Franck Grammont, Vittorio Gallese, Giacomo Rizzolatti, Maria Alessandra Umiltà

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


Mirror neurons are a distinct class of neurons that discharge both during the execution of a motor act and during observation of the same or similar motor act performed by another individual. However, the extent to which mirror neurons coding a motor act with a speciWc goal (e.g., grasping) might also respond to the observation of a motor act having the same goal, but achieved with artiWcial eVectors, is not yet established. In the present study, we addressed this issue by recording mirror neurons from the ventral premotor cortex (area F5) of two monkeys trained to grasp objects with pliers. Neuron activity was recorded during the observation and execution of grasping performed with the hand, with pliers and during observation of an experimenter spearing food with a stick. The results showed that virtually all neurons responding to the observation of hand grasping also responded to the observation of grasping with pliers and, many of them to the observation of spearing with a stick. However, the intensity and pattern of the response diVered among conditions. Hand grasping observation determined the earliest and the strongest discharge, while pliers grasping and spearing observation triggered weaker responses at longer latencies. We conclude that F5 grasping mirror neurons respond to the observation of a family of stimuli leading to the same goal. However, the response pattern depends upon the similarity between the observed motor act and the one executed by the hand, the natural motor template.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)605-616
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • Goal coding
  • Grasping
  • Mirror neurons
  • Monkey
  • Premotor cortex
  • Tool use


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