According to the mirror mechanism the discharge of F5 mirror neurons of a monkey observing another individual performing an action is a motor representation of the observed action that may serve to understand or learn from the action. This hypothesis, if strictly interpreted, requires mirror neurons to exhibit an action tuning that is shared between action observation and execution. Due to insufficient data it remains contentious if this requirement is met. To fill in the gaps, we conducted an experiment in which identical objects had to be manipulated in three different ways in order to serve distinct action goals. Using three methods, including cross-task classification, we found that at most time points F5 mirror neurons did not encode observed actions with the same code underlying action execution. However, in about 20% of neurons there were time periods with a shared code. These time periods formed a distinct cluster and cannot be considered a product of chance. Population classification yielded non-shared coding for observed actions in the whole population, which was at times optimal and consistently better than shared coding in differentially selected subpopulations. These results support the hypothesis of a representation of observed actions based on a strictly defined mirror mechanism only for small subsets of neurons and only under the assumption of time-resolved readout. Considering alternative concepts and recent findings, we propose that during observation mirror neurons represent the process of a goal pursuit from the observer's viewpoint. Whether the observer's goal pursuit, in which the other's action goal becomes the observer's action goal, or the other's goal pursuit is represented remains to be clarified. In any case, it may allow the observer to use expectations associated with a goal pursuit to directly intervene in or learn from another's action.
The data and codes for reproduction of all figures and the table have been deposited on Zenodo. During the review process, they are made available to the reviewers/editors. After acceptance, they are freely accessible.
Dataset Non-shared coding of observed and executed actions prevails in macaque ventral premotor mirror neuronsZenodo, doi:10.5281/zenodo.8047592.
- Jörn K Pomper
- Mohammad Shams
- Shengjun Wen
- Friedemann Bunjes
- Peter Thier
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Animal experimentation: All experiments were approved and controlled by the regional veterinary administration (Regierungspräsidium Tübingen and Landratsamt Tübingen, Permit Number: N4/14) and conducted in accordance with German and European law and the National Institutes of Health's Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, and regularly and carefully monitored by the veterinary service of the University of Tübingen, the latter also providing care in case of medical problems.
- Kristine Krug, Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, Germany
© 2023, Pomper et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
The synchronization of canonical fast sleep spindle activity (12.5–16 Hz, adult-like) precisely during the slow oscillation (0.5–1 Hz) up peak is considered an essential feature of adult non-rapid eye movement sleep. However, there is little knowledge on how this well-known coalescence between slow oscillations and sleep spindles develops. Leveraging individualized detection of single events, we first provide a detailed cross-sectional characterization of age-specific patterns of slow and fast sleep spindles, slow oscillations, and their coupling in children and adolescents aged 5–6, 8–11, and 14–18 years, and an adult sample of 20- to 26-year-olds. Critically, based on this, we then investigated how spindle and slow oscillation maturity substantiate age-related differences in their precise orchestration. While the predominant type of fast spindles was development-specific in that it was still nested in a frequency range below the canonical fast spindle range for the majority of children, the well-known slow oscillation-spindle coupling pattern was evident for sleep spindles in the adult-like canonical fast spindle range in all four age groups—but notably less precise in children. To corroborate these findings, we linked personalized measures of fast spindle maturity, which indicate the similarity between the prevailing development-specific and adult-like canonical fast spindles, and slow oscillation maturity, which reflects the extent to which slow oscillations show frontal dominance, with individual slow oscillation-spindle coupling patterns. Importantly, we found that fast spindle maturity was uniquely associated with enhanced slow oscillation-spindle coupling strength and temporal precision across the four age groups. Taken together, our results suggest that the increasing ability to generate adult-like canonical fast sleep spindles actuates precise slow oscillation-spindle coupling patterns from childhood through adolescence and into young adulthood.
Transsynaptic viral vectors provide means to gain genetic access to neurons based on synaptic connectivity and are essential tools for the dissection of neural circuit function. Among them, the retrograde monosynaptic ΔG-Rabies has been widely used in neuroscience research. A recently developed engineered version of the ΔG-Rabies, the non-toxic self-inactivating (SiR) virus, allows the long term genetic manipulation of neural circuits. However, the high mutational rate of the rabies virus poses a risk that mutations targeting the key genetic regulatory element in the SiR genome could emerge and revert it to a canonical ΔG-Rabies. Such revertant mutations have recently been identified in a SiR batch. To address the origin, incidence and relevance of these mutations, we investigated the genomic stability of SiR in vitro and in vivo. We found that “revertant” mutations are rare and accumulate only when SiR is extensively amplified in vitro, particularly in suboptimal production cell lines that have insufficient levels of TEV protease activity. Moreover, we confirmed that SiR-CRE, unlike canonical ΔG-Rab-CRE or revertant-SiR-CRE, is non-toxic and that revertant mutations do not emerge in vivo during long-term experiments.