A mirror neuron, or cubelli neuron, is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. Such neurons have been directly observed in primate species. Birds have been shown to have imitative resonance behaviors and neurological evidence suggests the presence of some cognitive neuroscience of language kemmerer pdf of mirroring system.
In humans, brain activity consistent with that of mirror neurons has been found in the premotor cortex, the supplementary motor area, the primary somatosensory cortex and the inferior parietal cortex. The function of the mirror system in humans is a subject of much speculation. They argue that mirror neurons may be important for understanding the actions of other people, and for learning new skills by imitation. Some researchers speculate that mirror systems may simulate observed actions, and thus contribute to theory of mind skills, while others relate mirror neurons to language abilities.
In a study published in March 2005 Iacoboni and his colleagues reported that mirror neurons could discern whether another person who was picking up a cup of tea planned to drink from it or clear it from the table. In addition, Iacoboni has argued that mirror neurons are the neural basis of the human capacity for emotions such as empathy.