Monday, June 2, 2008

Mirror neuron survey

I posted a mirror neuron survey a couple of days ago, and we now have a small sample of responses. If this sample is representative, it seems there's a lot of divergent opinions and/or uncertainty about the role of mirror neurons in action understanding. I would LOVE to hear particularly from those of you who are voting either "yes" (mirror neurons ARE the basis for action understanding), or "not sure." Please let us know why you are voting the way you are. What evidence leads you to vote "yes"? Why are you unsure? This is a perfect opportunity to discuss these issues outside of the stiff, non-interactive journal format, and outside of the time-constrained, senior researcher-dominated conference format. You can even comment anonymously here. How easy is that?! So speak up! I promise to be nice. :-)


Yisrael said...

The more I get into the field of cognitive neuroscience the more vague it appears to be. Whether it be theoretical constructs for human action understanding extracted from monkey neurons or brain imaging being held up as conclusive evidence of wh- movement. There are some gigantic leaps being made that require some serious re-examination. In short, I voted "not sure" as in seriously doubtful.

Anonymous said...

I agree with yisroel. What does 'understanding' mean, really. These are huge leaps we're making. I'm not sure we can make them.

Michael said...

i gotta go with my 'gut' in matters of science

Greg Hickok said...

The issue of what counts as "understanding" is extremely important, and not addressed well at all in the MN papers I've looked at. In world of MN-related speech studies, "action understanding" seems to be operationalized as the ability to discriminate between meaningless CV syllables. Odd to study action understanding with meaningless stimuli.

Anonymous said...

I think the biggest problem for this theory is the presence of broadly congruent mirror neurones. These cells broadly match executed actions to a range of similar observed actions. In fact from what we know about macaque mirror neurones (which is not a great deal considering how much we 'know' about human mirror neurones) broadly congruent cells out number strictly congruent cells.

Given this fact it is difficult to reconcile how the system subserve accurate recognition or understanding of executed actions.

HerbM said...

If mirror neurons didn't exist we would be practically forced to invent them as something must be enabling many of the associations, models, or understandings we have from our senses.

Broadly congruent MNs actually make this far more sensible -- not less so -- in that we don't need to perform most actions precisely as we see others do that action but rather as we need to perceive the GOAL of the action which is what resonates in the BCMNs.

If translating a specific action into a general goal is NOT some (reasonable and practical) form of "understanding" then what WOULD constitute understanding?

And of course the strictly congruent MNs are for those cases where we must learn a precise, or relatively precise, action.

When most people watch someone else dive into a swimming pool they will see simply a dive, or maybe even something as 'broad' a 'jump' or 'entrance into the water'.

A skilled diver may notice that it was a piked dive (e.g., jack knife).

Progressively more refined SCMN allow for the latter and BCMN allow for the former.