One of the most exciting events in neurosciences over the past few years has been the discovery of a mechanism that unifies action perception and action execution. The essence of this 'mirror' mechanism is as follows: whenever individuals observe an action being done by someone else, a set of neurons that code for that action is activated in the observers' motor system. Since the observers are aware of the outcome of their motor acts, they also understand what the other individual is doing without the need for intermediate cognitive mediation. In this Review, after discussing the most pertinent data concerning the mirror mechanism, we examine the clinical relevance of this mechanism. We first discuss the relationship between mirror mechanism impairment and some core symptoms of autism. We then outline the theoretical principles of neurorehabilitation strategies based on the mirror mechanism. We conclude by examining the relationship between the mirror mechanism and some features of the environmental dependency syndromes.
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