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What can we make of theories of embodiment and the role of the human mirror neuron system?

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889197613 Year: Pages: 116 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88919-761-3 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Neurology --- Science (General)
Added to DOAB on : 2016-04-07 11:22:02
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In recent years, work surrounding theories of embodiment and the role of the putative mirror neuron system (MNS) in humans has gained considerable attention. If humans have developed a net-work of neurons that fire in response to other beings’ actions, as has been shown in macaques, this system could have vast implications for all kinds of cognitive processes unique to humans, such as language, learning, empathy and communication in general. The goal of tapping into and understanding such a system is a fascinating yet challenging one. One form of embodiment - embodied linguistics - suggests that the way we process linguistic information is linked to our physical experience of the concept conveyed by each word. The interaction between these cognitive systems (i.e., language and motor processing) may occur thanks to the firing of neurons making up the MNS. The possible interdependence between different cognitive systems has implications for healthy as well as pathological profiles, and in fact, work in recent years has also explored the role of ‘embodiment’ and/or the MNS in clinical populations such as stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Autism, among others. Research on embodiment and/or the MNS has been approached with a number of different methodologies, but the results obtained with these different methodologies have not been entirely consistent, generating doubts regarding the theories. The question has been raised as to what this line of inquiry can gain from the types of evidence contributed by functional neuroimaging methods carried out with healthy volunteers versus behavioral or lesion-symptom mapping methods employed with neurologically-compromised individuals. Of particular interest are the clinical applications of this line of research. If indeed a system exists which reflects a tight link between, for example, the human language and motor systems, then the obvious challenge is to tap into this system to create useful therapies that can provide rehabilitation where damage has occurred. This Research Topic brought together work conducted with healthy and patient populations using several behavioral and imaging techniques, as well as insightful commentaries and opinion pieces. We believe the combined work of the participating authors is an important contribution to this intriguing line of research and an excellent point of reference for future work.

Infants’ Understanding and Production of Goal-Directed Actions in the Context of Social and Object-Related Interactions

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889452552 Year: Pages: 121 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88945-255-2 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Science (General) --- Psychology
Added to DOAB on : 2018-02-27 16:16:44
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Since the discovery of mirror neurons, the study of human infant goal-directed actions and object manipulation has burgeoned into new and exciting research directions. A number of infant studies have begun emphasizing the social context of action to understand what infants can infer when looking at others performing goal-directed actions or manipulating objects. Others have begun addressing how looking at actions in a social context, or even simply looking at objects in the immediate environment influence the way infants learn to direct their own actions on objects. Researchers have even begun investigating what aspects of goal-directed actions and object manipulation infants imitate when such actions are being modeled by a social partner, or they have been asking which cues infants use to predict others' actions. A growing understanding of how infants learn to reach, perceive information for reaching, and attend social cues for action has become central to many recent studies. These new lines of investigation and others have benefited from the use of a broad range of new investigative techniques. Eye-tracking, brains imaging techniques and new methodologies have been used to scrutinize how infants look, process, and use information to act themselves on objects and/or the social world, and to infer, predict, and recognize goal-directed actions outcomes from others. This Frontiers Research topic brings together empirical reports, literature reviews, and theory and hypothesis papers that tap into some of these exciting developmental questions about how infants perceive, understand, and perform goal-directed actions broadly defined. The papers included either stress the neural, motor, or perceptual aspects of infants’ behavior, or any combination of those dimensions as related to the development of early cognitive understanding and performance of goal-directed actions.

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