Mirror neurons are widely regarded as an important key to social cognition. Despite such wide agreement, there is very little consensus on how or why they are important. The goal of this paper is to clearly explicate the exact role mirror neurons play in social cognition. I aim to answer two questions about the relationship between mirroring and social cognition: What kind of social understanding is involved with mirroring? How is mirroring related to that understanding? I argue that (...) philosophical and empirical considerations lead us to accord a fairly minimal role for mirror neurons in social cognition. (shrink)
Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in theories of mindreading. New discoveries in neuroscience have revitalized the languishing debate. The discovery of so-called mirror neurons has revived interest particularly in the Simulation Theory (ST) of mindreading. Both ST proponents and theorists studying mirror neurons have argued that mirror neurons are strong evidence in favor of ST over Theory Theory (TT). In this paper I argue against the prevailing view that mirror neurons are evidence for (...) the ST of mindreading. My view is that on an appropriate construal of their function, mirror neurons do not operate like simulation theorists claim. In fact, mirror neurons are more appropriately understood as one element in an information-rich mindreading process. As such, mirror neurons fit in better with some sort of TT account of mindreading. I offer a positive account, the Model TT, which better explains the role of mirror neurons in social cognition. (shrink)
Mirror neurons are neurons which fire in two distinct conditions: (i) when an agent performs a specific action, like a precision grasp of an object using fingers, and (ii) when an agent observes that action performed by another. Some theorists have suggested that the existence of such neurons may lend support to the simulation approach to mindreading (e.g. Gallese and Goldman, 1998, 'Mirror neurons and the simulation theory of mind reading'). In this note I critically examine (...) this suggestion, in both its original and a revised form (due to Iacoboni et al., 2005, 'Grasping the intentions of others with one's own mirror neuron system'), and argue that the existence of mirror neurons can in fact tell us very little about how intentional attribution actually proceeds. (shrink)
The neurological discovery of mirror neurons is of eminent importance for the phenomenological theory of intersubjectivity. G. Rizzolatti and V. Gallese found in experiments with primates that a set of neurons in the premotor cortex represents the visually registered movements of another animal. The activity of these mirror neurons presents exactly the same pattern of activity as appears in the movement of one's own body. These findings may be extended to other cognitive and emotive functions in humans. (...) I show how these neurological findings might be “translated” phenomenologically into our own experienced sensations, feelings and volitions. (shrink)
According to an influential view, one function of mirror neurons (MNs), first discovered in the brain of monkeys, is to underlie third-person mindreading. This view relies on two assumptions: the activity of MNs in an observer’s brain matches (simulates or resonates with) that of MNs in an agent’s brain and this resonance process retrodictively generates a representation of the agent’s intention from a perception of her movement. In this paper, I criticize both assumptions and I argue instead that the (...) activity of MNs in an observer’s brain is enhanced by a prior representation of the agent’s intention and that their task is to predictively compute the best motor command suitable to satisfy the agent’s intention. (shrink)
This paper raises fundamental questions about the claims of art historian David Freedberg and neuroscientist Vittorio Gallese in their article "Motion, Emotion and Empathy in Esthetic Experience." It does so from several perspectives, all of them rooted in the dynamic realities of movement. It shows on the basis of neuroscientific research how connectivity and pruning are of unmistakable import in the interneuronal dynamic patternings in the human brain from birth onward. In effect, it shows that mirror neurons are contingent (...) on morphology and corporeal-kinetic tactile-kinesthetic experience. Accordingly, it poses and answers the overlooked but seminally important question of how mirror neurons come to be. The original neuromuscular research of Parma neuroscientists and the findings of Marc Jeannerod concerning kinesthesia support the answer that the "underpinnings" of visual art appreciation are themselves underpinned. An abbreviated phenomenological analysis of movement and its implications regarding the fact that the making of all art is quintessentially contingent on movement, hence a dynamic enterprise, further bolster the given answer as does a brief review of an empirical phenomenological analysis of the natural dynamic congruency of emotions and movement. In the end, the paper shows that movement and life are of a piece in the creation and appreciation of art as in everyday life. (shrink)
Both macaque monkeys and humans have been shown to have what are called ‘mirror neurons’, a class of neurons that respond to goal-related motor-actions, both when these actions are performed by the subject and when they are performed by another individual observed by the subject. Gallese and Goldman (1998) contend that mirror neurons may be seen as ‘a part of, or a precursor to, a more general mind- reading ability’, and that of the two competing theories of (...) mind-reading, mirror neurons lend support to simulation theory. I here offer four reasons why I think mirror neurons do not provide support for simulation theory over its contender, theory theory. (shrink)
The discovery of mirror neurons has been hailed as one of the most exciting developments in neuroscience in the past few decades. These neurons discharge in response to the observation of others’ actions. But how are we to understand the function of these neurons? In this paper I defend the idea that mirror neurons are best conceived as components of a sensory system that has the function to perceive action. In short, mirror neurons are part (...) of a hitherto unrecognized “sixth sense”. In this spirit, research should move toward developing a psychophysics of mirror neurons. (shrink)
Despite the impressive body of evidence supporting the existence of a mirror neuron (MN) system for action, the original claim regarding its crucial role in action understanding remains controversial. Emma Borg has recently launched a sharp attack on this claim, with the aim of demonstrating that neither the original version nor the subsequent revisions of the MN hypothesis tell us very much about how intentional attribution actually works. In this article I take up the challenge she issues in the title (...) of her paper (If Mirror Neurons are the Answer, What was the Question?) and argue that what MNs offer is not as Borg claims 'an extremely limited' picture of action understanding but rather an enriched picture that brings to light aspects of social cognition hitherto ignored in the mind-reading literature, showing how intentional motor components of action can shape social cognition prior to and apart from any forms of deliberate mentalizing. (shrink)
This article distinguishes three archetypal ways of articulating spatial cognition: (1) via metric representation of objective geometry, (2) via somatosensory constitution of the peripersonal environment, and (3) via pragmatic comprehension of the finalistic sense of action. The last one is documented by neuroscientific studies concerning mirror neurons. Bio-robotic experiments implementing mirror functions confirm the constitutive role of goal-oriented actions in spatial processes.
Single cell recordings in monkeys provide strong evidence for an important role of the motor system in action understanding. This evidence is backed up by data from studies of the (human) mirror neuron system using neuroimaging or TMS techniques, and behavioral experiments. Although the data acquired from single cell recordings are generally considered to be robust, several debates have shown that the interpretation of these data is far from straightforward. We will show that research based on single-cell recordings allows for (...) unlimited content attribution to mirror neurons. We will argue that a theoretical analysis of the mirroring process, combined with behavioral and brain studies, can provide the necessary limitations. A complexity analysis of the type of processing attributed to the mirror neuron system can help formulate restrictions on what mirroring is and what cognitive functions could, in principle, be explained by a mirror mechanism. We argue that processing at higher levels of abstraction needs assistance of non-mirroring processes to such an extent that subsuming the processes needed to infer goals from actions under the label ?mirroring? is not warranted. (shrink)
Primatologists generally agree that monkeys lack higher-order intentional capacities related to theory of mind. Yet the discovery of the so-called “mirror neurons” in monkeys suggests to many neuroscientists that they have the rudiments of intentional understanding. Given a standard philosophical view about intentional understanding, which requires higher-order intentionality, a paradox arises. Different ways of resolving the paradox are assessed, using evidence from neural, cognitive, and behavioral studies of humans and monkeys. A decisive resolution to the paradox requires substantial additional (...) empirical work and perhaps a rejection of the standard philosophical view. (shrink)
Positing the importance of sensorimotor contingencies for perception is by no means denying the presence and importance of representations. Using the evidence of mirror neurons we will show the intrinsic relationship between action control and representation within the logic of forward models.
The evolutionary continuity between the prespeech functions of premotor cortex and its new linguistic functions, the main thesis of MacNeilage's target article, is confirmed by the recent discovery of “mirror” neurons in monkeys and a corresponding action-observation/action-execution matching system in humans. Physiological data (and other considerations) appear to indicate, however, that brachiomanual gestures played a greater role in language evolution than MacNeilage would like to admit.
Chaotic dynamics can be related to analog computation. A possibility of electronically implementing the chaos-driven contracting system in the target article is explored with an analog electronic circuit with inevitable noise from the viewpoint of analog computation with chaotic neurons.
Commonsense says we are isolated. After all, our bodies are physically separate. But Seneca’s colamus humanitatem, and John Donne’s observation that “no man is an island” suggests we are neither entirely isolated nor separate. A recent discovery in neuroscience—that of mirror neurons—argues that the brain and the mind is neither built nor functions remote from what happens in other individuals. What are mirror neurons? They are brain cells that process both what happens to or is done by an (...) individual, and, as it were, its perceived “refl ection,” when that same thing happens or is done by another individual. Thus, mirror neurons are both activated when an individual does a particular action, and when that individual perceives that same action done by another. The discovery of mirror neurons suggests we need to radically revise our notions of human nature since they offer a means by which we may not be so separated as we think. Humans unlike other apes are adapted to mirror interact nonverbally when together. Notably, our faces have been evolved to display agile and nimble movements. While this is usually explained as enabling nonverbal communication, a better description would be nonverbal commune based upon mirror neurons. I argue we cherish humanity, colamus humanitatem, because mirror neurons and our adapted mirror interpersonal interface blur the physical boundaries that separate us. (shrink)
Mirror neurons are a particular class of visumotorical neurons, originally discovered in area F5 of the monkey premotorical cortex. They discharge both (1) when the animal performs a specific action and (2) when it observes a similar action. Actually, it is often assumed that this unique functioning could explain different abilities ranging from imitation behaviour to faculty of speech. In this article, we discuss the question what is meant by the expression: The neuron x mirrors the action y (...) by perception z . The problem resulted from the fact, that neurons cannot mirror anythingâexcept in the light of a metaphorical description. How can this metaphorical description be dissolved for a distinct and explicit scientific terminology? The basic steps of our argumentation are as follows. (1) The expression to mirror can be defined in mutual relation between different types of actions in respect of at least two participants: the proponent A, who conducts a special action x (e.g. grapping a peanut (A(x)) and the opponent B who observes these actions y (B(y)) and vice versa. (2) In order to detect different tokens as a type of action and to guarantee the changes of the participants there must be constituted a speech act in a dialogue, in which types of actions are defined by the invariance of special equivalence. (3) The change of the participants represents and defines the metaphorical expression to mirror in the light of a non-metaphorical and reproducible schema. (4) Then, the invariance of the type of action can be identified in different speech acts. Three of them (called narratives) were defined paradigmatically: (4.1) the ethological-narrative; (4.2) the neurophysiological-narrative; (4.3) the language-narrative. (5) These narratives are the modelling and explicit formulations of the primarily metaphorical expression: The neuron x mirrors the action y by perception z. (shrink)
Various deficits in the cognitive functioning of people with autism have been documented in recent years but these provide only partial explanations for the condition. We focus instead on an imitative disturbance involving difficulties both in copying actions and in inhibiting more stereotyped mimicking, such as echolalia. A candidate for the neural basis of this disturbance may be found in a recently discovered class of neurons in frontal cortex, 'mirror neurons' (MNs). These neurons show activity in relation (...) both to specific actions performed by self and matching actions performed by others, providing a potential bridge between minds. MN systems exist in primates without imitative and ‘theory of mind’ abilities and we suggest that in order for them to have become utilized to perform social cognitive functions, sophisticated cortical neuronal systems have evolved in which MNs function as key elements. Early developmental failures of MN systems are likely to result in a consequent cascade of developmental impairments characterised by the clinical syndrome of autism. (shrink)
Summary Ideomotor apraxia is a cognitive disorder in which the patient loses the ability to accurately perform learned, skilled actions. This is despite normal limb power and coordination. It has long been known that left supramarginal gyrus lesions cause bilateral upper limb apraxia and it was proposed that this area stored a visualkinaesthetic image of the skilled action, which was translated elsewhere in the brain into the pre-requisite movement formula. We hypothesise that, rather than these two functions occurring separately, both (...) are complementary functions of chains of ‘‘mirror neurons’’ within the left inferior parietal lobe. We go on to propose that this neural mechanism in the supramarginal gyrus and its projection zones, which originally evolved to allow the creation of a direct map between vision and movement, was subsequently exapted to allow other sorts of cross-domain mapping and in particular those sorts of abstract re-conceptualisation, such as metaphor, that make mankind unique. (shrink)
As presently implemented, the neuron doctrine (ND) portrays the brain's neurons and chemical synapses as fundamental components in a computer-like switching circuit, supporting a view of brain = mind = computer. However, close examination reveals individual neurons to be far more complex than simple switches, with enormous capacity for intracellular information processing (e.g., in the internal cytoskeleton). Other poorly appreciated factors (gap junctions, apparent randomness, dendritic-dendritic processing, possible quantum computation, the living state) also suggest that the ND grossly (...) oversimplifies neuronal functions. In the quest to understand consciousness, the presently implemented ND may throw out the baby with the bath water. (shrink)
Falk's hominin mother-infant model presupposes an emerging infant capacity to perceive and learn from afforded gestures and vocalizations. Unlike back-riding offspring of other primates, who were in no need to decenter their own body-centered perspective, a mirror neurons system may have been adapted in hominin infants to subserve the kind of (m)other-centered mirroring we now see manifested by human infants soon after birth.
A formal neuron has been studied mathematically. The spiking behaviour of a single neuron has been considered and the influence of the other neurons has been replaced by an average activity level. Four different kinds of spiking behaviour are predicted by the model: B (bursts), C (continuous), P (periodic) and S (silent) neurons and several real neurons can be classified within these four categories. Some properties of the spiking neuron are calculated: 1) the time between spikes, 2) (...) the spike train length and 3) the silent time. Because these magnitudes can be measured in the laboratory, an experimental validation of the model is proposed. (shrink)
It has been shown that visual awareness in the blind hemifield of hemianopic cats that have undergone unilateral ablations of visual cortex can be restored by sectioning the commissure of the superior colliculus or by destroying a portion of the substantia nigra contralateral to the cortical lesion (the Sprague effect). We propose that the visual awareness that is recovered is due to synchronized oscillatory activities in the superior colliculus ipsilateral to the cortical lesion. These oscillatory activities are normally partially suppressed (...) by the inhibitory, GABAergic contralateral nigrotectal projection, and the destruction of the substantia nigra, or the sectioning of the collicular commissure, disinhibits the collicular neurons, causing an increase in the extent of oscillatory activity and/or synchronization between activities at different sites. This increase in the oscillatory and synchronized character is sufficient for the activities to give rise to visual awareness. We argue that in rodents and lower vertebrates, normal visual awareness is partly due to synchronized oscillatory activities in the optic tectum and partly due to similar activities in visual cortex. It is only in carnivores and primates that visual awareness is wholly due to cortical activities. Based on von Baerian recapitulation theory, we propose that, even in humans, there is a period in early infancy when visual awareness is partially due to activities in the superior colliculus, but that this awareness gradually disappears as the nigrotectal projection matures. (shrink)
A tendency of auditory cortical neurons to respond at the beginning of major transitions in sounds rather than providing a continuously updated spectral-temporal profile may impede the generation of combination-sensitivity for certain classes of stimuli. Potential consequences of the cortical encoding of voiced stop-consonants on representational principles derived from orderly output constraints are discussed.
The same neural structures involved in the unconscious modeling of our acting body in space also contribute to our awareness of the lived body and of the objects that the world contains. Neuroscientific research also shows that there are neural mechanisms mediating between the multi-level personal experience we entertain of our lived body, and the implicit certainties we simultaneously hold about others. Such personal and body-related experiential knowledge enables us to understand the actions performed by others, and to directly decode (...) the emotions and sensations they experience. A common functional mechanism is at the basis of both body awareness and basic forms of social understanding: embodied simulation. It will be shown that the present proposal is consistent with some of the perspectives offered by phenomenology. (shrink)
Introduction: New approaches to knotty old problems -- Avoiding Cartesian materialism -- From causal reductionism to self-directed systems -- From mindless to intelligent action -- How can neural nets mean? -- How does reason get its grip on the brain? -- Who's responsible? -- Neurobiological reductionism and free will.
All complex systems are complex, but some are more complex than others are. Biological systems are generally more complex than physical systems. How do biologists tackle complex systems? In this talk, we will consider two biological systems, the genome and the brain. Scientists know much about them, but much more remains unknown. Ignorance breeds philosophical speculation. Reductionism makes a strong showing here, as it does in other frontier sciences where large gaps remain in our understanding. I will show that reductionism (...) and its claims have no bases in actual scientific research and results. The Human Genome Project will serve as a case in point.. (shrink)
Questions concerning the nature of representation and what representations are about have been a staple of Western philosophy since Aristotle. Recently, these same questions have begun to concern neuroscientists, who have developed new techniques and theories for understanding how the locus of neurobiological representation, the brain, operates. My dissertation draws on philosophy and neuroscience to develop a novel theory of representational content.
Mirror neurons and systems are often appealed to as mechanisms enabling mindreading, i.e., understanding other people’s mental states. Such neural mirroring processes are often treated as instances of mental simulation rather than folk psychological theorizing. I will call into question this assumed connection between mirroring and simulation, arguing that mirroring does not necessarily constitute mental simulation as specified by the simulation theory of mindreading. I begin by more precisely characterizing “mirroring” (Sect. 2) and “simulation” (Sect. 3). Mirroring results in (...) a neural process in an observer that resembles a neural process of the same type in the observed agent. Although simulation is often characterized in terms of resemblance (Goldman, Simulating minds: The philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience of mindreading, 2006), I argue that simulation requires more than mere interpersonal mental resemblance: A simulation must have the purpose or function of resembling its target (Sect. 3.1). Given that mirroring processes are generated automatically, I focus on what is required for a simulation to possess the function of resembling its target. In Sect. 3.2 I argue that this resemblance function, at least in the case of simulation-based mindreading, requires that a simulation serve as a representation or stand-in of what it resembles. With this revised account of simulation in hand, in Sect. 4 I show that the mirroring processes do not necessarily possess the representational function required of simulation. To do so I describe an account of goal attribution involving a motor mirroring process that should not be characterized as interpersonal mental simulation. I end in Sect. 5 by defending the conceptual distinction between mirroring and simulation, and discussing the implications of this argument for the kind of neuroscientific evidence required by simulation theory. (shrink)
What is consciousness? Conventional approaches see it as an emergent property of complex interactions among individual neurons; however these approaches fail to address enigmatic features of consciousness. Accordingly, some philosophers have contended that "qualia," or an experiential medium from which consciousness is derived, exists as a fundamental component of reality. Whitehead, for example, described the universe as being composed of "occasions of experience." To examine this possibility scientifically, the very nature of physical reality must be re-examined. We must come (...) to terms with the physics of spacetime-as described by Einstein's general theory of relativity, and its relation to the fundamental theory of matter-as described by quantum theory. Roger Penrose has proposed a new physics of objective reduction: "OR," which appeals to a form of quantum gravity to provide a useful description of fundamental processes at the quantum/classical borderline.hz Within the OR scheme, we consider that consciousness occurs if an appropriately organized system is able to develop and maintain quantum coherent superposition until a specific "objective" criterion (a threshold related to quantum gravity) is reached; the coherent system then self-reduces (objective reduction: OR). We contend that this type of objective self-collapse introduces non-computability, an essential feature of consciousness which distinguishes our minds from classical computers. Each OR is taken as an instantaneous event-the climax of a self-organizing process in fundamental spacetime-and a candidate for a conscious Whitehead "occasion of experience." How could an OR process occur in the brain, be coupled to neural activities, and account for other features of consciousness? We nominate a quantum computational OR process with the requisite characteristics to be occurring in cytoskeletal microtubules within the brain's neurons. In this model, quantum-superposed states develop in microtubule subunit proteins ("tubulins") within certain brain neurons, remain coherent, and recruit more superposed tubulins until a mass-time-energy threshold (related to quantum gravity) is reached.. (shrink)
Recent literature on the role of pictorial representation in the life sciences has focused on the relationship between detailed representations of empirical data and more abstract, formal representations of theory. The standard argument is that in both a historical and epistemic sense, this relationship is a directional one: beginning with raw, unmediated images and moving towards diagrams that are more interpreted and more theoretically rich. Using the neural network diagrams of Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts as a case study, I (...) argue that while in the empirical sciences, pictorial representation tends to move from data to theory, in areas of the life sciences that are predominantly theoretical, when abstraction occurs at the outset, the relationship between detail and abstraction in pictorial representations can be of a different character. (shrink)
In the Western aesthetic canon, the still life enjoys a certain prestige; its place in the museum and on the pages of the art history text is secure. Art aficionados who appreciate the character of Cezanne's apples help to ensure the lofty standing of the still life, as do students who admire the dewdrops still glistening on flowers picked and painted in the nineteenth century. For some students, however, it is difficult to understand such veneration. Despite the coaxing of dedicated (...) art or museum educators, these students find apples nestled among drapery folds or translucent petals in a spring bouquet to be "boring." No matter how compelling the apples, how exquisitely rendered the blossoms, the still life is .. (shrink)
In this paper, I critically assess the thesis that the discovery of mirror neuron systems (MNSs) provides empirical support for the simulation theory (ST) of social cognition. This thesis can be analyzed into two claims: (i) that MNSs are involved in understanding others’ intentions or emotions; and (ii) that the way in which they do so supports a simulationist viewpoint. I will be giving qualified support to both claims. Starting with (i), I will present theoretical and empirical points in support (...) of the view that MNSs play a substantial role and are perhaps neces¬sary although not sufficient for understanding at least some intentions or emo¬tions. Turning to (ii), I will argue that the work on MNSs best supports a fairly weak version of ST, according to which social cognition involves simulation simply because conceptual thought in gen¬eral has a simulationist component. In elucidating this idea, I appeal to Law¬rence Barsalou’s embodied theory of concepts (1999, 2005). Crucially, the term “simula¬tion” here refers not to simulations of a target agent’s experience, nor even spe¬cifically to one’s own experience in a similar counterfactual situation, but to simulations of experience in general - activating sensory, motor, proprioceptive, affective, and introspective representations that match representations one would have when perceiving, carrying out actions, experiencing emotions, etc. I then sketch an expanded simulationist framework for understanding the contribution of MNSs to social cognition. The ap¬peal to empirical work on MNSs in support of ST is therefore a two-edged sword; making this appeal persuasive requires us to modify our understanding of simulation to make it line up with the empirical work. (shrink)
A unifying theory of general anesthetic-induced unconsciousness must explain the common mechanism through which various anesthetic agents produce unconsciousness. Functional-brain-imaging data obtained from 11 volunteers during general anesthesia showed specific suppression of regional thalamic and midbrain reticular formation activity across two different commonly used volatile agents. These findings are discussed in relation to findings from sleep neurophysiology and the implications of this work for consciousness research. It is hypothesized that the essential common neurophysiologic mechanism underlying anesthetic-induced unconsciousness is, as with (...) sleep-induced unconsciousness, a hyperpolarization block of thalamocortical neurons. A model of anesthetic-induced unconsciousness is introduced to explain how the plethora of effects anesthetics have on cellular functioning ultimately all converge on a single neuroanatomic/neurophysiologic system, thus providing for a unitary physiologic theory of narcosis related to consciousness. (shrink)
A premise of Corballis's theory is that speech arose when vocalization co-opted existing gestural functions in the left ventral premotor cortex. Yet, visuomotor functions in this region remain largely unchanged between humans and macaques and have no discernible connection to gestural communication. This functional continuity suggests that language production is not the result of modifying existing motor functions in this region.
Neurophysiological studies in monkeys and neuroimaging studies in humans support a model of empathy according to which there exists a shared code between perception and production of emotion. The neural circuitry critical to this mechanism is composed of frontal and parietal areas matching the observation and execution of action, and interacting heavily with the superior temporal cortex. Further, this cortical system is linked to the limbic system by means of an anterior sector of the human insular lobe.
A wide range of systems appear to perform computation: what common features do they share? I consider three examples, a digital computer, a neural network and an analogue route finding system based on soap-bubbles. The common feature of these systems is that they have autonomous dynamics — their states will change over time without additional external influence. We can take advantage of these dynamics if we understand them well enough to map a problem we want to solve onto them. Programming (...) consists of arranging the starting state of a system so that the effects of the system''s dynamics on some of its variables corresponds to the effects of the equations which describe the problem to be solved on their variables. The measured dynamics of a system, and hence the computation it may be performing, depend on the variables of the system we choose to attend to. Although we cannot determine which are the appropriate variables to measure in a system whose computation basis is unknown to us I go on to discuss how grammatical classifications of computational tasks and symbolic machine reconstruction techniques may allow us to rule out some measurements of a system from contributing to computation of particular tasks. Finally I suggest that these arguments and techniques imply that symbolic descriptions of the computation underlying cognition should be stochastic and that symbols in these descriptions may not be atomic but may have contents in alternative descriptions. (shrink)
It is often claimed that the discovery of mirror neurons supports simulation theory (ST). There has been much controversy about this, however, as there are various competing models of the functional contribution of mirror systems, only some of which characterize mirroring as simulation in the sense required by ST. But a brief review of these models reveals that they all include simulation in some sense . In this paper, I propose that the broader conception of simulation articulated by neo-empiricist (...) theories of concepts can subsume the more specific conceptions of simulation presented by ST and by these other models, thereby offering a framework in which each of these models may play a role. According to neo-empiricism, conceptual thought in general involves simulation in the sense that it is grounded in sensory, motor, and other embodied systems (Barsalou, Behavioral and Brain Sciences , 22 , 577–609, 1999 , Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London: Biological Sciences , 364 , 1281–1289, 2009 ; Barsalou et al., Trends in Cognitive Sciences , 7 (2), 84–91, 2003 ; Prinz 2002 , Mind & Language , 25 (5), 612–621, 2010 ; Glenberg and Robertson, Journal of Memory and Language , 43 , 379–401, 2000 ). Crucially, the term “simulation” here refers not to simulations of a target agent’s experience in the sense endorsed by simulation theory but to the activation of sensory, motor, affective, and introspective representations. This difference does not entail that neo-empiricism must be in competition with ST—indeed, I will propose that ST can be embedded as a special case within neo-empiricism. (shrink)
The communication of emotion in music has with few exceptions, as L. B. Meyer´s Emotion and Meaning in Music (1956) and the contour theory (Kivy 1989, 2002), focused on music structure as representations of emotions. This implies a semiotic approach - the assumption that music is a kind of language that could be read and decoded. Such an approach is largely restricted to the conscious level of knowing, understanding and communication. We suggest an understanding of music and emotion based on (...) action-perception theory - present moment perception, implicit knowledge and imitation. This theory does not demand consciousness or the use of signs. Neuroscientific findings (adaptive oscillators, mirror neurons) are in concordance with our suggestion. Recently these findings have generated articles on empathy – relevant to the understanding of music and emotion. (shrink)
Page's target article presents an argument for the use of localist, connectionist models in future psychological theorising. The “manifesto” marshalls a set of arguments in favour of localist connectionism and against distributed connectionism, but in doing so misses a larger argument concerning the level of psychological explanation that is appropriate to a given domain.
Four distinct models of the functional contribution of mirror neurons to social cognition can be distinguished: direct matching, inverse modeling, response modeling, and predictive coding. Each entails a different way in which an agent's own capacities for action and affective experience contribute to understanding and/or predicting others' actions and affective experience. In this paper, the four models and their theoretical frameworks are elucidated, empirical data and theoretical arguments bearing upon each are reviewed, and falsifiable predictions that could help to (...) distinguish empirically among the models are proposed. (shrink)
This commentary validates the fundamental evolutionary interconnection between the emergence of imitation and the mirror system. We present a novel computational framework for studying the evolutionary origins of imitative behavior and examining the emerging underlying mechanisms. Evolutionary adaptive agents that evolved in this framework demonstrate the emergence of neural “mirror” mechanisms analogous to those found in biological systems.
The notion of affordance has been introduced by Gibson (1977, 1979) as the feature of an object or the environment that allows the observer to perform an action, a set of “environmental supports for an organism’s intentional activities” (Reybrouck 2005). Studied under very different perspectives, this concept has become a crucial issue not only for the ecological psychology, but also for cognitive sciences, artificial intelligence studies, and philosophy of mind. This variety of approaches has widened the already ambiguous definition originally (...) provided by Gibson, contributing to the development of different standpoints in open contrast with each other (see Zipoli Caiani 2011). During the last two decades, moreover, many researchers tried to extend the notion also to musical experience, aiming to draw a coherent theory of musical affordances (e.g. Clarke 2005; Nussbaum 2007; Krueger 2011a; 2011b). In this paper, we will argue for a particular concept of musical affordances, that is, as we see it, one narrower and less ambiguous in scope and more closely related to its original. Taking the discovery of canonical neurons as our starting point, we will (i) introduce the general notion of affordance, (ii) discuss some significant contributions in this area of research, mostly focusing on musical affordances and (iii) propose a motor-based interpretation of musical affordances. (shrink)
Recent experiments have shown that the amplitudes of cortical gamma band oscillatory activities that occur during anesthesia are often greater than amplitudes of similar activities that occur without anesthesia. This result is apparently at odds with the hypothesis that synchronized oscillatory activities constitute the neural correlate of consciousness. We argue that while synchronization and oscillatory patterning are necessary conditions for consciousness, they are not sufficient. Based on the results of a binocular rivalry study of Fries et al. (1997), we propose (...) that the degrees of oscillatory strength and synchronization of neuronal activities determine the degree of awareness those activities produce. On the other hand, the overal firing rates of neurons in cortical sensory areas are not correlated with the degree of awareness the activities of those neurons produce. The results of the experiment of Fries et al. (1997) appear to conflict with the results of another binocular rivalry experiment, in which monkeys were trained to pull a lever in order to report which stimulus object was being perceived (Leopold & Logothetis, 1996). In the latter experiment, it was demonstrated that the firing rates of neurons in striate cortex did not change during perceptual alterations, while 90% of neurons in inferior and superior temporal cortices changed their firing rate when the perceived image changed. This result led to the conclusion that activities in temporal cortex are correlated with visual awareness, but those in striate cortex are not. We argue that activities in temporal cortex contribute little, if anything, to perceptual awareness, and that their primary function is computational. Thus the correlation between the firing rates of neurons in these areas and the responses of the monkeys is due to the recognition of a particular stimulus object, which in turn is due to the computations made there. (shrink)
Quartz & Sejnowski's (Q&S's) main accomplishment is the presentation of increasing complexity in the developing brain. Although this cuts a colorful swath through current theories of learning, it leaves the central question untouched: How does the environment direct neural structure? In answer, Q&S offer us only Hebb's half-century-old suggestion once again.
The main idea -- The functioning of a neuron -- Brain structure and function -- The general structure of the neural network -- Instincts, emotions, free will -- The nature of mental objects -- The rise and essence of (self-)consciousness -- Artificial intelligence -- Cognitive limitations of man.
Theories of binding have recently come into the focus of the consciousness debate. In this review, we discuss the potential relevance of temporal binding mechanisms for sensory awareness. Specifically, we suggest that neural synchrony with a precision in the millisecond range may be crucial for conscious processing, and may be involved in arousal, perceptual integration, attentional selection and working memory. Recent evidence from both animal and human studies demonstrates that specific changes in neuronal synchrony occur during all of these processes (...) and that they are distinguished by the emergence of fast oscillations with frequencies in the gamma-range. (shrink)
Possible systemic effects of general anesthetic agents on neural information processing are discussed in the context of the thalamocortical suppression hypothesis presented by Drs. Alkire, Haier, and Fallon (this issue) in their PET study of the anesthetized state. Accounts of the neural requisites of consciousness fall into two broad categories. Neuronal-specificity theories postulate that activity in particular neural populations is sufficient for conscious awareness, while process-coherence theories postulate that particular organizations of neural activity are sufficient. Accounts of anesthetic narcosis, on (...) the other hand, explain losses of consciousness in terms of neural signal-suppressions, transmission blocks, and the disruptions of signal interpretation. While signal-suppression may account for the actions of some anesthetic agents, the existence of anesthetics, such as choralose, that cause both loss of consciousness and elevated discharge rates, is problematic for a general theory of narcosis that is based purely on signal suppression and transmission-block. However, anesthetic agents also alter relative firing rates and temporal discharge patterns that may disrupt the coherence of neural signals and the functioning of the neural networks that interpret them. It is difficult at present, solely on the basis of regional brain metabolic rates, to test process-coherence hypotheses regarding organizational requisites for conscious awareness. While these pioneering PET studies have great merit as panoramic windows of mind-brain correlates, wider ranges of theory and empirical evidence need to be brought into the formulation of truly comprehensive theories of consciousness and anesthesia. (shrink)
David Hume endorses three claims that are difficult to reconcile: (1) sympathy with those in distress is sufficient to produce compassion towards their plight, (2) adopting the general point of view often requires us to sympathize with the pain and suffering of distant strangers, but (3) our care and concern is limited to those in our close circle. Hume manages to resolve this tension, however, by distinguishing two types of sympathy. We feel compassion towards those around us because associative sympathy (...) causes us to mirror their pain and suffering, but our ability to enter into the afflictions of those remote from us involves cognitive sympathy and merely requires us to reflect upon how we would feel in their shoes. This hybrid theory of sympathy receives support from recent work on affective mirroring and cognitive pretense. Hume’s account should appeal to contemporary researchers, therefore, who are interested in the nature of moral imagination. (shrink)
I discuss Husserl’s account of intersubjectivity in the fifth Cartesian Meditation. I focus on the problem of perceived similarity. I argue that recent work in developmental psychology and neuroscience, concerning intermodal representation and the mirror neuron system, fails to constitute a naturalistic solution to the problem. This can be seen via a comparison between the Husserlian project on the one hand and Molyneux’s Question on the other.
The contribution argues that causal interpretations of empirical correlations between neural and conscious events are meaningful even if not fully verifiable and that there are reasons in favour of an epiphenomenalist construction of psychophysical causality. It is suggested that an account of causality can be given that makes interactionism, epiphenomenalism and Leibnizian parallelism semantically distinct interpretations of the phenomena. Though neuroscience cannot strictly prove or rule out any one of these interpretations it can be argued that methodological principles favour a (...) causal interpretation on epiphenomenalist lines, both for reasons of metaphysical parsimony and for reasons of coherence with established physical principles such as the conservation of energy. In the concluding chapter, some of the philosophical and the empirical challenges following from this model are outlined, the most important being closer scrutiny of the neurophysiological processes accompanying conscious volition. (shrink)
The view that the brain is a sort of computer has functioned as a theoretical guideline both in cognitive science and, more recently, in neuroscience. But since we can view every physical system as a computer, it has been less than clear what this view amounts to. By considering in some detail a seminal study in computational neuroscience, I first suggest that neuroscientists invoke the computational outlook to explain regularities that are formulated in terms of the information content of electrical (...) signals. I then indicate why computational theories have explanatory force with respect to these regularities:in a nutshell, they underscore correspondence relations between formal/mathematical properties of the electrical signals and formal/mathematical properties of the represented objects. I finally link my proposal to the philosophical thesis that content plays an essential role in computational taxonomy. (shrink)
Embodied social cognition (ESC) aims to explicate how our embodiment shapes our knowledge of others, and in what this knowledge of others consists. Although there is much diversity amongst ESC accounts, common to all these accounts is the idea that our normal everyday interactions consist in non-mentalistic embodied engagements. In recent years, several theorists have developed and defended innovative and controversial accounts of ESC. These accounts challenge, and offer deflationary alternatives to, the standard cognitivist accounts of social cognition. As ESC (...) accounts grow in number and prominence, the time has come for a dedicated, sustained debate on ESC and its most controversial and innovative elements. The goal of this special issue is to host such a debate with the aim of bringing clarity to the discussion of social cognition. (shrink)
Mindreading is the ability to attribute mental states to other individuals. According to the Theory-Theory (TT), mindreading is based on one's possession of a Theory of Mind. On the other hand, the Simulation Theory (ST) maintains that one arrives at the attribution of a mental state by simulating it in one's own mind. In this paper, I propose a ST-TT hybrid model of the ability to attribute disgust on the basis of visual stimuli such as facial expressions, body postures, etc. (...) More precisely, while I defend Goldman's (2006) thesis that the ability to attribute disgust based on observing disgusted facial expressions stems from a mirror-based simulation process, I argue that ST is unable to account for the ability to attribute disgust based on non-facial visual stimuli; I propose, rather, that this latter ability is theory-based. My model is grounded in evidence from individuals suffering from Huntington's Disease. (shrink)
Stable neuronal assemblies are generally regarded as neural correlates of mental representations. Their temporal sequence corresponds to the experience of a direction of time, sometimes called the psychological time arrow. We show that the stability of particular, biophysically motivated models of neuronal assemblies, called coupled map lattices, is supported by causal interactions among neurons and obstructed by non-causal or anti-causal interactions among neurons. This surprising relation between causality and stability suggests that those neuronal assemblies that are stable due (...) to causal neuronal interactions, and thus correlated with mental representations, generate a psychological time arrow. Yet this impact of causal interactions among neurons on the directed sequence of mental representations does not rule out the possibility of mentally less efficacious non-causal or anti-causal interactions among neurons. (shrink)