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Mirror neurons and the predictive mind

M. MALDONATO, S. DELL’ORCO

Dipartimento delle Culture Europee e del Mediterraneo (DICEM), University of Basilicata, Italy

 

 

 

 

Summary

 

 

 

 

 

 

Progress in Neuroscience 2013; 1 (1-4): 57-61.

doi: 10.14588/PiN.2013.Maldonato.57

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our brain is not only a reactive organ, capable of reacting quickly to the stimuli that arrive from the external environment, but also, and above all, it is a pro-active organ that allows us to make hypotheses, anticipate the consequences of actions, and formulate expectations, thereby enabling us to wrong-foot an adversary. Without this ability, humans would not be able to interact with each other, nor create forms of social coexistence. Certainly evolution has spurred the higher cognitive functions to develop mechanisms of reorganizing action according to unforeseen events as quickly as possible, integrating them into a perceptionaction cycle that may only take fractions of a second. Recent neuroscientific advances have shown the fallacy of imagining an anatomical and functional dichotomy between perception and action. The discovery of mirror neurons has shown that there is, instead, a very close link between perception and movement, confirming the existence of a relationship between what we perceive and how we act that hinges on the activation of the same neural substrate in both cases. In light of this evidence, perception becomes the ability to interpret an object in terms of the potential movements and actions that the perceiver could activate in relation to it. Motor acts are formulated and anticipated through the joint activity of perception and action and a mechanism of embodied simulation, which automatically perceives “the other” as an agent like oneself whose actions can be predicted on the basis both of their similarity to one’s own motor repertoire and the physical characteristics of the situation in question.

KEY WORDS: Anticipation, Embodied action, Mirror neurons, Perception.

 

 

 

 


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