, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 63–91 | Cite as

Information Processing in the Mirror Neuron System in Primates and Machines

  • Yiannis Demiris
  • Lisa Aziz-Zadeh
  • James Bonaiuto
Original Article


The mirror neuron system in primates matches observations of actions with the motor representations used for their execution, and is a topic of intense research and debate in biological and computational disciplines. In robotics, models of this system have been used for enabling robots to imitate and learn how to perform tasks from human demonstrations. Yet, existing computational and robotic models of these systems are found in multiple levels of description, and although some models offer plausible explanations and testable predictions, the difference in the granularity of the experimental setups, methodologies, computational structures and selected modeled data make principled meta-analyses, common in other fields, difficult. In this paper, we adopt an interdisciplinary approach, using the BODB integrated environment in order to bring together several different but complementary computational models, by functionally decomposing them into brain operating principles (BOPs) which each capture a limited subset of the model’s functionality. We then explore links from these BOPs to neuroimaging and neurophysiological data in order to pinpoint complementary and conflicting explanations and compare predictions against selected sets of neurobiological data. The results of this comparison are used to interpret mirror system neuroimaging results in terms of neural network activity, evaluate the biological plausibility of mirror system models, and suggest new experiments that can shed light on the neural basis of mirror systems.


Mirror system BODB Computational modeling Robotics Imitation 



YD’s contributions were partially supported through EU FP7 grants EFAA (grant FP7-ICT-270490) and ALIZ-E (grant FP7-ICT-248116).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yiannis Demiris
    • 1
  • Lisa Aziz-Zadeh
    • 2
  • James Bonaiuto
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Electrical and Electronic EngineeringImperial College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Brain and Creativity Institute and Division of Occupational Science and Occupational TherapyUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Division of BiologyCalifornia Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA

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