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These presentations were shown at IMS Stuttgart during my TSM ERASMUS scholarship in July 2010.

Published in: Education, Technology


  1. 1. How mirror neurons help us in making meaning? Presented at IMS STUTTGART During TSM ERASMUS 2010 Konrad Juszczyk, Ph.D. Adam Mickiewicz University Poznań-Poland 1czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 1
  2. 2. V. S. Ramachandran I predict that mirror neurons will do for psychology what DNA did for biology. MNs are Necessary but not sufficient: their emergence and further develo- pment in hominids was a decisive step. Research in MNs may explain the evolution of language, learning by imitation and culture. 2czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 2
  3. 3. Questions and challenges What do we know about mirror neurons? Why and what do we want to know about MNs? What do we gain from having known MNs? When and where are MNs active? How do MNs discoveries support meaning making and its properties in communication? 3czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 3
  4. 4. Mirror neurons in monkeys Original discovery by Parma neurologists: Rizzolatti, Fadiga, Fogassi, Gallese since 1996... Depth electrodes measure single-neuron activity of macaques’ brain when they pick up food (action) observe a person picking up food (perception of action). Some neurons give similar responses, so they are dubbed mirror neurons. 4czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 4
  5. 5. MNs in human brain No possibility of measuring the single- neuron activity with depth electrodes (excluding testing for neurosurgery). Most evidence for human MNs is indirect. Neurological experiments suggest that a mirror system for gesture recognition also exists in humans and includes Broca’s area (Rizzolatti & Arbib 1998) 5czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 5
  6. 6. PREMOTOR F5 – A44&A45 Anatomical and functional homologies are found in monkeys’ brain – F5 human brain A44 &A45–Broca’s area 6czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 6
  7. 7. What are mirror neurons? MNs are the cells in our brain that make our experience, mostly made of interactions with other people, deeply meaningful. MNs are brain cells that seem specialized in understanding our existential condition and our involvement with others. MNs show we are not alone, we are interconnected. Iacoboni 2008 7czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 7
  8. 8. PREMOTOR MIRROR AIM CORTEX NEURONS MOTOR MOTOR ACTION CORTEX NEURONS ACTION is a movement associated with a goal. Initiation of the movement is accompanied by the creation of an expectation that the goal will be met. (Arbib and Rizolatti) 8czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 8
  9. 9. Arbib’s questions How to view a language in a way which better defines its relation to goal-directed action? How to link perception with perfomance? How to explain evolution of communication? 9czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 9
  10. 10. Michael Arbib claims: Language is essentially multi-modal, not just a set of sequences of words which can be completely captured by marks on the printed page. Written language reflects the lessons of grammar more than does spoken language. The language of the brain or schema network is vastly richer than a linear sequence of words. 10czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 10
  11. 11. Mirror System Hypothesis The Mirror System Hypothesis 11czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 11
  12. 12. Mirror System Hypothesis The mechanisms which support language in the human brain evolved atop a basic mechanism not originally related to communication. Instead, the mirror system for grasping with its capacity to generate and recognize a set of actions, provides the evolutionary basis for language parity – i.e., an utterance means roughly the same for both speaker and hearer. 12czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 12
  13. 13. Mirror System Hypothesis In particular, human Broca’s area contains a mirror system for grasping which is homologous to the F5 mirror system of macaque. Arbib, M. 2006. Action to Language via the Mirror Neuron System 13czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 13
  14. 14. Mirror System Hypothesis the mirror system for grasping (F5 in macaques brain) / the motor system for gesturing / mechanisms which support language (Broca’s area in human brain) 14czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 14
  15. 15. MNs in DIALOGUE We imitate each others gestures, words and syntactic structures in conversation. We can guess and make meaning with the nonverbal cues seen in our partner. We use mirror neurons to do all that! Giving speech is more challenging than taking part in a conversation! Iacoboni 2008 15czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 15
  16. 16. MONOLOGUE VS DIALOGUE You can plan your speech as a text. You can control the pace of your speech. You are supposed to give the speech. well-formed & coherent sentences Iacoboni 2008 16czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 16
  17. 17. MONOLOGUE VS DIALOGUE You can plan your You take part in speech as a text. interaction/dance. You can control the You take turns and pace of your speech. rely on the partner. You are supposed You get a feedback to give the speech. and you react to it. well-formed fragments of sentences & coherent sentences and guessing game Iacoboni 2008 17czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 17
  18. 18. Meaning making Communication is about sharing: unison: how it is similar to my partner? attention: what do we need to do it? How am I going to make you think about it? emotions: how do I feel about doing it? intentions: what do I want you to do? 18czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 18
  19. 19. Unison and synchrony in social coordination Rhythms of people sitting opposite each other may synchronise if they perform the same activity and look at each other. Pairs of subjects move their fingers at their own preferred frequency and amplitude with and without vision of the other’s movements. Brain activity was measured with dual-EEG. Tognoli, Lagarde, DeGuzman 19czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 19
  20. 20. The PHI complex Spontaneous coordination in the form of synchronized behavior was observed between participants during visual contact even though no instruction to coordinate was given. Precise analysis of oscillatory components (phi1 and phi2) may distinguish effective from ineffective social coordination. Tognoli, Lagarde, DeGuzman 20czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 20
  21. 21. McNeill: One system of gesture and language Gestures facilitate making meaning: retrieval of the missing word (help for the speaker) reflection on the content of the speech (iconic type) rhytmical organisation of speech (beat type) MNs fire when we observe iconic gestures because these are important in face2face conversation (Molnar-Szakacs 2005) Making meaning is multimodal! 21czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 21
  22. 22. Gestures lead–speech follows MNs support gestural origins of a language. MNs are critical in lg evolution and development. MNs respond to hierarchical organization of the actions of other people (Molnar-Szakacs). MNs seem to exist in Broca’s area which suggest the imitational basis of language. 22czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 22
  23. 23. If mirror neurons can code the hierarchy of manual activities, they may also code hierarchy in other domains, for instance, in linguistic material. When we humans are engaged in conversation, we tend to imitate each others syntactical structures. 23czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 23
  24. 24. MNs simulate the actions we observe while watching a video or reading a sentence. Brain activity was measured during reading sentences about hand and mouth actions watching movies showing hand and mouth actions hand action: grasping and mouth action: biting Selective activation of MNs was reported in the areas of hand and mouth action control respectively for hand and mouth sentences or movies (Lakoff 2005 and Aziz Zadeh 2006) 24czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 24
  25. 25. ATTENTION Mirror neurons fire when we observe actions and when we perform the same actions. Observing sb’s mental state and action activates the same brain cells and circuts that are used to perform the same action. Wicker, Keysers, Plailly 25czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 25
  26. 26. EMOTIONS and EMPATHY Understanding emotions of our partners is an important skill in communication. People experience other people’s emotions because they can simulate them in the brain. Empathy is not merely the consequence of the passive observation of emotional cues but it is subject to contextual appraisal and modulation (similarity and familiarity). De Vignemont & Singer The empathic brain: how, when and why? 26czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 26
  27. 27. Roles of empathy Epistemological empathy might enable us to make faster and more accurate predictions of other people’s needs and actions and discover salient aspects of our environment. Social empathy might serve as the origin of motivation for altruistic behavior and cooperation, hence – communication. De Vignemont & Singer The empathic brain: how, when and why? 27czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 27
  28. 28. EMOTION CONTAGION Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have shown that observing another person’s emotional state activates parts of the neuronal network involved in processing that same state in oneself, whether it is disgust, touch or pain (several studies). De Vignemont & Singer The empathic brain: how, when and why? 28czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 28
  29. 29. INTENTIONS Bower: Goal oriented brain cells. Neurons may track action as a prelude to empathy Monkeys’ premotor neurons get fired up both when the animals perform an action, such as grasping or manipulating an object, and when they watch an experimenter do the same. Observing an action helps in understanding intention. Mirror neurons observed in monkeys may work similarly in human brain, if we have them;) 29czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 29
  30. 30. Simulation theory of Mindreading theory Mirror neurons appear to form a cortical system matching observation and execution of goal-related motor actions. Experimental evidence suggests that a similar matching system also exists in humans. Other people’s mental states are represented by adopting their perspective: by tracking or matching their states with resonant states of one’s own. 30czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 30
  31. 31. Gallese and Goldman MNs represent neural correlate of simulation of other’s action and learning by imitation. MNs underlie the process of ‘mind-reading’. Mind-reading is the activity of representing specific mental states of others, for example, their perceptions, goals, beliefs, expectations, and the like. Accurate understanding and anticipation enable the observer to adjust his responses appropriately. (communication planning) 31czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 31
  32. 32. EPILEPSY PATIENTS April 2010: some mirror neurons activity was measured in human brain with intracranial depth electrodes. New mirror neurons are to be found in different than expected areas of brain. Interpretation of data is still unclear. 32czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 32
  33. 33. What is existentialism? What is worth understanding and knowing is our existence, the human condition, and that engagement and involvement are superior to a detached stance. 33czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 33
  34. 34. EXISTENSIAL NEUROSCIENCE Iacoboni: Kierkegaard’s existentialism maps well onto mirror neuron properties: Kierkegaard proposed that our existence becomes meaningful only through our authenthic commitment to the finite and temporal, a commitment that defines us. 34czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 34
  35. 35. EXISTENSIAL NEUROSCIENCE The neural resonance between self and other that mirror neurons allow is in my opinion the embodiment of such commitment. Our neurobiology–our mirror neurons– commits us to others. 35czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 35
  36. 36. EXISTENSIAL NEUROSCIENCE Mirror neurons show the deepest way we relate to and understand each other: they demonstrate how we are wired for empathy, which we should inspire us to shape our society and make it a better place to live. Iacoboni 2008:267-268 36czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 36
  37. 37. embodied cognition Mental processes are shaped by our bodies and by the types of perceptual and motor experiences that are the product of their movement through and interaction with the surrounding world. This view is generally called embodied cognition, and the version of this theory especially dedicated to language is known as embodied semantics. The discovery of mirror neurons has strongly reinforced this hypothesis that cognition and language are embodied. 37czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 37
  38. 38. Bibliography meaningmaking/items/collection/ 2724947 Iacoboni, M. 2008. Mirroring People. Arbib, M. 2006. Action to Language via the Motor Mirror System (first chapters) email me: 38czwartek, 6 stycznia 2011 38