3QD readers may have noticed that some of us have a fixation on mirror neurons. Here is an archive of papers and discussions on mirror neurons moderated by Gloria Origgi and Dan Sperber.
The discovery of mirror neurons in the frontal lobes of macaques and their implications for human brain evolution is one of the most important findings of neuroscience in the last decade. Mirror neurons are active when the monkeys perform certain tasks, but they also fire when the monkeys watch someone else perform the same specific task. There is evidence that a similar observation/action matching system exists in humans. The mirror system is sometimes considered to represent a primitive version, or possibly a precursor in phylogeny, of a simulation heuristic that might underlie mindreading.
Today, mirror neurons play a major explanatory role in the understanding of a number of human features, from imitation to empathy, mindreading and language learning. It has also been claimed that damages in these cerebral structures can be responsible for mental deficits such as autism. The virtual workshop will address the theoretical implications of the discovery of mirror neurons. The discussion will try to set the explanatory scope of the phenomenon, and evaluate to what extent it can provide a new empirical ground for a variety of human mental abilities.