In daily life, we often try to learn motor actions by imitating others' actions. Motor imitation requires us to simultaneously map an observed action onto a motor program used to perform that action. This sensorimotor associative experience can plastically modulate the mirror property of the human mirror system, which has a role in matching observed actions directly with the observer's motor programs, to enhance the association between observed and performed actions. In the present study, we investigated the effects of handedness on the mirror property. Healthy left- and right-handed individuals performed a motor imitation task. They were required to imitate hand actions with their dominant hand as quickly and accurately as possible in response to pictures of a left and right hand. Reaction times (RTs) for imitating the hand actions were evaluated. Under the condition where the hand pictures were presented as if facing the participant, we found that, in left-handed participants, RTs for imitating right-handed actions were significantly shorter than those for imitating left-handed actions. Under the same conditions in right-handers, similar differences in RTs when presented left- and right-handed actions were not observed. These findings demonstrate that the imitative responses for left- and right-handed actions are differently facilitated depending on the handedness of the observer, indicating an effect of handedness on the development of mirror systems. The mirror property in left- and right-handers is likely modulated in a different manner by different sensorimotor associative experiences throughout their daily lives.
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