Brain cells in what is called the mirror system help people make sense of the actions they see other people perform in everyday life, demonstrate researchers.
In the study, the researchers found evidence that these areas contribute to understanding others' actions, which means that the same areas are involved in producing actions and understanding others' actions.
Researcher John Michael said that attaining knowledge of the processes underlying social understanding in people in general is an important part of the process of attaining knowledge of the underlying causes of the difficulties that some people diagnosed with autism and schizophrenia experience in sustaining social understanding.
The participants (20 adults) came to the lab thrice, and were given brain scans on the first visit.
On the second and third, they received stimulation to their motor system and then performed a typical psychological task in which they watched brief videos of actors pantomiming actions (about 250 videos each time).
After each video they had to choose a picture of an object that matched the pantomimed video. For example, a hammer was the correct answer for the video of an actor pretending to hammer.
This task was intended to gauge their understanding of the observed actions. The researchers found that the stimulation interfered with their performance of this task.
The study has been published in journal Psychological Science.