Over the second half of the 19th century, numerous theories arose concerning mechanisms involved in understanding of action, imitative learning, language development and theory of mind. These explorations gained new momentum with the discovery of the so called “mirror neurons”. Rizzolatti’s work inspired large groups of scientists seeking explanation in a new and hitherto unexplored area of how we perceive and understand the actions and intentions of others, how we learn through imitation to help our own survival, and what mechanisms have helped us to develop a unique human trait, language. Numerous studies have addressed these questions over the years, gathering information about mirror neurons themselves, their subtypes, the different brain areas involved in the mirror neuron system, their role in the above mentioned mechanisms, and the varying consequences of their dysfunction in human life. In this short review, we summarize the most important theories and discoveries that argue for the existence of the mirror neuron system, and its essential function in normal human life or some pathological conditions.
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