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The Neural Underpinnings of Vicarious Experience

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889192649 Year: Pages: 169 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88919-264-9 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Neurology --- Science (General)
Added to DOAB on : 2015-12-03 13:02:24
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Everyday we vicariously experience a range of states that we observe in other people: we may "feel" embarrassed when witnessing another making a social faux pas, or we may feel sadness when we see a loved one upset. In some cases this process appears to be implicit. For instance, observing pain in others may activate pain-related neural processes but without generating an overt feeling of pain. In other cases, people report a more literal, conscious sharing of affective or somatic states and this has sometimes been described as representing an extreme form of empathy. By contrast, there appear to be some people who are limited in their ability to vicariously experience the states of others. This may be the case in several psychiatric, neurodevelopmental, and personality disorders where deficits in interpersonal understanding are observed, such as schizophrenia, autism, and psychopathy. In recent decades, neuroscientists have paid significant attention to the understanding of the “social brain,” and the way in which neural processes govern our understanding of other people. In this Research Topic, we wish to contribute towards this understanding and ask for the submission of manuscripts focusing broadly on the neural underpinnings of vicarious experience. This may include theoretical discussion, case studies, and empirical investigation using behavioural techniques, electrophysiology, brain stimulation, and neuroimaging in both healthy and clinical populations. Of specific interest will be the neural correlates of individual differences in traits such as empathy, how we distinguish between ourselves and other people, and the sensorimotor resonant mechanisms that may allow us to put ourselves in another's shoes.

Embodying the Self: Neurophysiological Perspectives on the Psychopathology of Anomalous Bodily Experiences

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889454563 Year: Pages: 174 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88945-456-3 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Science (General) --- Neurology
Added to DOAB on : 2018-11-16 17:17:57
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Since the beginning of the 20th Century, phenomenology has developed a distinction between lived body (Leib) and physical body (Koerper), a distinction well known as body-subject vs. body-object (Hanna and Thompson 2007). The lived body is the body experienced from within - my own direct experience of my body lived in the first-person perspective, myself as a spatiotemporal embodied agent in the world. The physical body on the other hand, is the body thematically investigated from a third person perspective by natural sciences as anatomy and physiology. An active topic affecting the understanding of several psychopathological disorders is the relatively unknown dynamic existing between aspects related to the body-object (that comprises the neurobiological substrate of the disease) and the body-subject (the experiences reported by patients) (Nelson and Sass 2017). A clue testifying the need to better explore this dynamic in the psychopathological context is the marked gap that still exists between patients’ clinical reports (generally entailing disturbing experiences) and etiopathogenetic theories and therapeutic practices, that are mainly postulated at a bodily/brain level of description and analysis. The phenomenological exploration typically targets descriptions of persons’ lived experience. For instance, patients suffering from schizophrenia may describe their thoughts as alien (‘‘thoughts are intruding into my head’’) and the world surrounding them as fragmented (‘‘the world is a series of snapshots’’) (Stanghellini et al., 2015). The result is a rich and detailed collection of the patients’ qualitative self-descriptions (Stanghellini and Rossi, 2014), that reveal fundamental changes in the structure of experiencing and can be captured by using specific assessment tools (Parnas et al. 2005; Sass et al. 2017; Stanghellini et al., 2014).The practice of considering the objective and the subjective levels of analysis as separated in the research studies design has many unintended consequences. Primarily, it has the effect of limiting actionable neuroscientific progress within clinical practice. This holds true both in terms of availability of evidence-based treatments for the disorders, as well as for early diagnosis purposes. In response to this need, this collection of articles aims to promote an interdisciplinary endeavor to better connect the bodily, objective level of analysis with its experiential corollary. This is accomplished by focusing on the convergence between (neuro) physiological evidence and the phenomenological manifestations of anomalous bodily experiences present in different disorders.

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.

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