Thursday, June 19, 2008

Results of votes on MNs -- please elucidate!

OK, I am now definitely ready to hear from people who are participating in this blog -- for example by voting -- but remaining silent ...

In a previous vote, on the role of mirror neurons in speech perception ('primary substrate'), 25% said YES, 56% said NO, and 18% NOT SURE.

Now, on the 'action understanding question' (dominant role etc), it's 45% YES, 30% NO, and 24% NOT SURE.

I don't follow ... Admittedly, in the first poll there were fewer voters. Does that mean that we suddenly have readers/participants from the enthusiastcally pro-MN community? Or does that mean that people have a principled model of action understanding versus speech understanding that licenses such a conclusion? Or does it mean that our understanding of 'action' is so underspecified that *any* answer is sufficient?

Because I am naively optimistic, I am assuming that there are detailed accounts of action understanding that motivate the conclusion that mirror neurons form the basis for this complex cognitive subroutine. So can someone please clue me in on the evidence?

Needing to know ...


Greg Hickok said...

This poll has interesting result. My use of the phrase "mirror system" may have influenced the voting pattern as this is extremely vague. If I had said said "mirror neurons" instead presumably everyone would have voted 'no' because (i) there is NO evidence from monkeys that mirror neurons underlie action understanding (it hasn't been tested), and (ii) the human "mirror system" doesn't behave like mirror neurons.

I think people are more impressed by the gesture comprehension literature (apraxia related) which does hint at an association between gesture "understanding" and damage to motor-related structures in the frontal lobe. However, with the exception of two studies -- one that used pictures not dynamic actions, and the other that used a biased behavioral measure to do the lesion analysis (see previous posts) -- the majority of this evidence points to gesture recognition deficits being associated with parietal lobe damage.

We may have to post some follow up polls to figure out where the opinions are coming from.

Michael said...

Perhaps those flashy researchers over at UCSD are pushing logic aside and weighing in heavily in this poll! -- Kidding aside interesting results indeed

Perhaps the mirror system includes enough of the brain, (STS and major Frontal Lobe areas) that would sway the voters

And yes, perhaps 'Action Understanding' is just vague enough (or their faith is large enough!) to also sway the voters.