Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Open Peer Commentary

Associative and sensorimotor learning for parenting involves mirror neurons under the influence of oxytocin

S. Shaun Hoa1, Adam MacDonalda1 and James E. Swaina1a2

a1 Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan School of Medicine, 4250 Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48109.

a2 Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520.


Mirror neuron–based associative learning may be understood according to associative learning theories, in addition to sensorimotor learning theories. This is important for a comprehensive understanding of the role of mirror neurons and related hormone modulators, such as oxytocin, in complex social interactions such as among parent–infant dyads and in examples of mirror neuron function that involve abnormal motor systems such as depression.