Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging

Ever since the discovery of mirror neurons in monkeys, which were found to activate during action control as well as during action observation, it has been debated if and how their existence and function translates to humans. Large parts of research and discussion have been devoted to the identification and measurement of actual mirror neurons, a mirror system, or a mirror mechanism in humans. While these discussions are of course important, here we aim at discussing the wider implications of such a capacity, assuming that it exists in some form or another. We therefore dedicate this debate toThe Meaning of Mirror Neurons and we aim at discussing their potential role in development, evolution, mental simulation, social interaction, and theory of mind.

Debate Questions

  • To what extent is the Mirror Neuron System (MNS) hard-wired or malleable (re-trainable) and how does this define/impact on the relationship between the MNS and phylo- and ontogenesis?
  • What is the role of the MNS in social interaction and joint action? What exactly is the mapping between self and other, e.g. is it a direct 1:1, or a complementary mapping, or both? How does this relate to the answer to Q1?
  • Do all kinds of mental simulation recruit the MNS (e.g. mentally simulating the mechanics of a combustion engine)? What is the relationship between ‘embodied’ cognition and the MNS? (What is the relationship between MNS and other bodily representations such as the body schema?)
  • What can the MNS tell us about empathy, mentalizing and particularly about the deliberate and conscious processes of theory of mind (ToM)?



Harold Bekkering




Geoff Bird




Vittorio Gallese




Natalie Sebanz




perret David Perrett
simon Simon Garrod klaus Klaus Kessler



12:00-12:50       Registration and Welcome Lunch

12:50-13:00       Welcome from co-ordinators, Simon Garrod and Klaus Kessler

13:00-13:30       Harold Bekkering

13:30-14:00       Geoff Bird

14:00-14:30       Vittorio Gallese

14:30-15:00       Natalie Sebanz

15:00-15:30       Tea/Coffee break

15:30-17:30       Debate

17:30                Buffet reception

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Senate Room, University of Glasgow


25th October. 12 noon - 17:30


Research Research Overview Uncategorised Social Interaction Debate - The Meaning of Mirror Neurons