Mirror system gets an assist | Science News

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Mirror system gets an assist

In amputee, brain systems work in tandem to understand observed task

3:47pm, July 15, 2011

When a woman born without limbs watches someone else sew, copycat regions in her brain activate even though she can’t hold a needle herself. Additional brain regions also lend support, demonstrating how flexible the brain is when it comes to observing and understanding the actions of others.

Scientists have known for over a decade about the mirror system, a network of brain regions usually activated by watching and performing an action. But just how the brain smoothly and quickly intuits what other people are doing, particularly when the action isn’t something the observer can do, has been unclear, says study coauthor Lisa Aziz-Zadeh of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. 

In the study, a middle-aged, healthy woman born with no arms and legs underwent brain scans as she watched videos of people performing actions such as holding and eating an apple slice, sewing with a needle and tapping a finger. Actions that the woman was cap

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