The spatial location and viewpoint of observed actions are closely linked in natural social settings. For example, actions observed from a subjective viewpoint necessarily occur within the observer's peripersonal space. Neurophysiological studies have shown that mirror neurons (MNs) of the monkey ventral premotor area F5 can code the spatial location of live observed actions. Furthermore, F5 MN discharge can also be modulated by the viewpoint from which filmed actions are seen. Nonetheless, whether and to what extent MNs can integrate viewpoint and spatial location of live observed actions remains unknown. We addressed this issue by comparing the activity of 148 F5 MNs while macaque monkeys observed an experimenter grasping in three different combinations of viewpoint and spatial location, namely, lateral view in the (1) extrapersonal and (2) peripersonal space and (3) subjective view in the peripersonal space. We found that the majority of MNs were space-selective (60.8%): those selective for the peripersonal space exhibited a preference for the subjective viewpoint both at the single-neuron and population level, whereas space-unselective neurons were view invariant. These findings reveal the existence of a previously neglected link between spatial and viewpoint selectivity in MN activity during live-action observation.
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