Evidence for mirror systems in emotions

J. A. C. J. Bastiaansen, M. Thioux, C. Keysers*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    224 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Why do we feel tears well up when we see a loved one cry? Why do we wince when we see other people hurt themselves? This review addresses these questions from the perspective of embodied simulation: observing the actions and tactile sensations of others activates premotor, posterior parietal and somatosensory regions in the brain of the observer which are also active when performing similar movements and feeling similar sensations. We will show that seeing the emotions of others also recruits regions involved in experiencing similar emotions, although there does not seem to be a reliable mapping of particular emotions onto particular brain regions. Instead, emotion simulation seems to involve a mosaic of affective, motor and somatosensory components. The relative contributions of these components to a particular emotion and their interrelationship are largely unknown, although recent experimental evidence suggests that motor simulation may be a trigger for the simulation of associated feeling states. This mosaic of simulations may be necessary for generating the compelling insights we have into the feelings of others. Through their integration with, and modulation by, higher cognitive functions, they could be at the core of important social functions, including empathy, mind reading and social learning.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2391-2404
    Number of pages14
    JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences
    Volume364
    Issue number1528
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 27-Aug-2009

    Keywords

    • emotions
    • sensations
    • simulation
    • mirror system
    • empathy
    • social cognition
    • OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER
    • COMMON NEURAL BASIS
    • FACIAL EXPRESSIONS
    • SOCIAL COGNITION
    • AMYGDALA DAMAGE
    • ANTERIOR INSULA
    • ACTION REPRESENTATION
    • IMPAIRED RECOGNITION
    • MAGNETIC STIMULATION
    • HUNTINGTONS-DISEASE

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