In the present study, we evaluated activated areas of the cerebral cortex with regard to the mirror neuron system during swallowing. To identify the activated areas, we used magnetoencephalography. Subjects were ten consenting volunteers. Swallowing-related stimuli comprised an animated image of the left profile of a person swallowing water with laryngeal elevation as a visual swallowing trigger stimulus and a swallowing sound as an auditory swallowing trigger stimulus. As control stimuli, a still frame image of the left profile without an additional trigger was shown, and an artificial sound as a false auditory trigger was provided. Triggers were presented at 3,000 ms after the start of image presentation. The stimuli were combined and presented and the areas activated were identified for each stimulus. With animation and still-frame stimuli, the visual association area (Brodmann area (BA) 18) was activated at the start of image presentation, while with the swallowing sound and artificial sound stimuli, the auditory areas BA 41 and BA 42 were activated at the time of trigger presentation. However, with animation stimuli (animation stimulus, animation + swallowing sound stimuli, and animation + artificial sound stimuli), activation in BA 6 and BA 40, corresponding to mirror neurons, was observed between 620 and 720 ms before the trigger. Besides, there were also significant differences in latency time and peak intensity between animation stimulus and animation + swallowing sound stimuli. Our results suggest that mirror neurons are activated by swallowing-related visual and auditory stimuli.
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