Mirror and (absence of) counter-mirror responses to action sounds measured with transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • Authors:
  • Luca Ticini
  • Simone Schütz-Bosbach
  • Florian Waszak


To what extent is the mirror neuron mechanism malleable to experience? The answer to this question can help characterising its ontogeny and its role in social cognition. Some suggest that it develops through sensorimotor associations congruent with our own actions. Others argue for its extreme volatility that will encode any sensorimotor association in the environment. Here, we added to this debate by exploring the effects of short goal-directed “mirror” (defined as the first type of training encountered by the participants) and “counter-mirror” trainings on human auditory mirror motor-evoked potentials (MEPs). We recorded MEPs in response to two tones void of previous motor meaning, before and after “mirror” and “counter-mirror” trainings in which participants generated two tones of different pitch by performing free-choice button presses. The results showed that mirror MEPs, once established, are protected against an equivalent counter-mirror experience: they became manifest very rapidly and the same number of training trials that lead to the initial association did not suffice to reverse the MEP pattern. This steadiness of the association argues that, by serving direct-matching purposes, the mirror mechanism is a good solution for social cognition.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2017