J Track for Mirrors
In 1996, Giacomo Rizzolatti , a neurologist at the University of Parma, made the surprising discovery of mirror neurons. A discovery which, though little known to the general public, could be the cause of a major scientific revolution that can not press a few contours.
1. Discovery of mirror neurons.
Evoking mirror neurons in a single ticket may leave out many scientific implications but also philosophical. This topic deserves a book in itself, that did Rizzolatti whose book co-written with Corrado Sinigaglia, philosopher of science, has been translated into French in 2008 by Odile Jacob. For now, this discovery for neuroscience but as we shall see, it could have wider implications in the philosophy of mind and social sciences.
Background. Rizzolatti and his team accidentally discovered that neurons located in the F5 area of the motor cortex, activated when the monkey performs an action, are also activated in another macaque observing its congener. Without performing the action. This has been told to Rizzolatti that these neurons are used to project a representation of the action that it takes place or not. In other words, to understand what the other is doing, one must turn on its own motor neurons in a position to act, would be activated to perform the same action as that deployed by the individual observed.
"Mirror neurons are a particular class of neurons initially identified in the precentral cortex of macaque. Their main characteristic is to activate both when the monkey performs a specific action and when it observes another individual trying to perform the same action. Thus such a neuron is activated when the monkey grasps a given object or when he sees the experimenter enter the same object. Some of these neurons are very specific, activating only when both movements observed seizure and seizure executed, are made the same way (...) What is the functional role of mirror neurons? Various hypotheses have been advanced. In fact, their function is not unique. Their property is to create a mechanism that projects a description of the action, developed in complex visual areas to motor areas. This transfer mechanism includes a variety of operations. One of their main functions is the understanding of the action. It may seem bizarre to acknowledge what the other is doing, it should activate its own engine. In fact, it is not so surprising. Because the only visual observation, without involvement of the motor system, gives a description of the visible aspects of the movement, without information on what it really means this action. This information can only be obtained if the observed action is recorded in the motor system of the observer. The activation of the mirror circuit is thus essential to give the viewer a real and experiential understanding of the action he sees "(Rizzolatti, lecture at the Academy of Sciences, December 2006)
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