In the last decades, abundant evidence from behavioral and imaging studies has suggested that a specialized neural network known as the mirror neuron system (MNS) could underlie empathy. Despite the fact that the properties of the adult MNS brain are now well known, we are yet to describe its emergence and development throughout infancy, childhood and adolescence. In this review, we present evidence describing the emergence and development of empathy in the early years of life. It is proposed that the development of empathetic abilities is linked to the neurobiological development of the MNS, which may be present at birth in a rudimentary form and refined through social experiences and brain maturation.
KEYWORDS: empathy, mirror neuron system, development, motor resonance.