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The Myth of Mirror Neurons: The Real Neuroscience of Communication and Cognition
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The Myth of Mirror Neurons: The Real Neuroscience of Communication and Cognition [Format Kindle]

Gregory Hickok

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An essential reconsideration of one of the most far-reaching theories in modern neuroscience and psychology.

In 1992, a group of neuroscientists from Parma, Italy, reported a new class of brain cells discovered in the motor cortex of the macaque monkey. These cells, later dubbed mirror neurons, responded equally well during the monkey’s own motor actions, such as grabbing an object, and while the monkey watched someone else perform similar motor actions. Researchers speculated that the neurons allowed the monkey to understand others by simulating their actions in its own brain.

Mirror neurons soon jumped species and took human neuroscience and psychology by storm. In the late 1990s theorists showed how the cells provided an elegantly simple new way to explain the evolution of language, the development of human empathy, and the neural foundation of autism. In the years that followed, a stream of scientific studies implicated mirror neurons in everything from schizophrenia and drug abuse to sexual orientation and contagious yawning.

In The Myth of Mirror Neurons, neuroscientist Gregory Hickok reexamines the mirror neuron story and finds that it is built on a tenuous foundation—a pair of codependent assumptions about mirror neuron activity and human understanding. Drawing on a broad range of observations from work on animal behavior, modern neuroimaging, neurological disorders, and more, Hickok argues that the foundational assumptions fall flat in light of the facts. He then explores alternative explanations of mirror neuron function while illuminating crucial questions about human cognition and brain function: Why do humans imitate so prodigiously? How different are the left and right hemispheres of the brain? Why do we have two visual systems? Do we need to be able to talk to understand speech? What’s going wrong in autism? Can humans read minds?

The Myth of Mirror Neurons not only delivers an instructive tale about the course of scientific progress—from discovery to theory to revision—but also provides deep insights into the organization and function of the human brain and the nature of communication and cognition.

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.2 étoiles sur 5  14 commentaires
12 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the best theory of them all? 6 septembre 2014
Par The Professor - Publié sur
This was a fantastic read. Mirror neurons have been a hot topic in neuroscience the past decade or so. Discussions of mirror neurons and theories around them are often presented as far more certain than the evidence really allows for, and this book is a great antidote to that. On top of that, this book features fantastic discussions of language and embodied cognition. It is written in a very easy to follow way, but the discussion is analytically rigorous. For the layman outside of the world of neuropsychology it features an appendix at the back to prime you on brain anatomy.

I would highly recommend this, especially those interested in social behavior and/or language.
27 internautes sur 33 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 How the latest research in neuroscience can help almost anyone think and communicate much more effectively 18 août 2014
Par Robert Morris - Publié sur
I begin with an unconventional suggestion: Read Appendix A, "A Primer on Brain Organization," first; then proceed through Gregory Hickok's lively and eloquent as well as insightful narrative. I wish I had when I first read this book.

* * *

In the Preface, Hickok quotes this passage from V.S. Razmachandran's conversation (in 2000) with John Brockman, featured by "I predict that mirror neurons will do for psychology what DNA did for biology: they will provide the unifying framework and help explain a host of mental abilities that have hitherto remained mysterious and inaccessible to experiments." Fourteen years later, in this book Hickok share revelations from recent research in neuroscience that can help almost anyone think and communicate much more effectively. Several of these breakthroughs occurred during research on pigtail macaque monkeys. Hickok suggests that the behavior of mirror neurons is modest, at least in the context of the human abilities they are claimed to enable...Mirror neurons are no longer the rock stars of neuroscience and psychology that they once were and, in my view, a more complex and interesting story is gaining favor regarding the neuroscience of communication and cognition"

In other words, the real neuroscience of communication and cognition repudiates and invalidates the myth of mirror neurons.

I very much admire the energy of his analysis and circumspection of his perspective. These are among the subjects of greatest interest to me that Hickok discusses with rigor and, when appropriate, restraint:

o Assuming that humans have mirror neurons, what are their primary functions and limitations? What differentiates them from mirror neurons of a macaque monkey?
o For example, to what extent do they "unlock the secrets of language, mind reading, empathy, and autism"?
o What is the Parma Theory and why is it significant?
o What are the most significant anomalies in the search for mirror neurons in humans?
o What does each of these anomalies suggest? So what?
o What are the defining characteristics and primary functions of a "talking brain"?
o What is an embodied brain"? What is its relevance to "the real neuroscience of communication and cognition"?o What are the core principles of a neural base of action understanding?
o Why and how is imitation "at the core, the very foundation of what it means to be human both culturally and socially"?
o Why do humans "ape better than apes ape"?
o To what extent (if any) is there a causal link between autism? Between autism and sociopathic behavior?
o In a robotic arm situation, what is the significance of the fact that that the brain "models or predicts the current and future state of the limb internally using motor commands themselves rather than sensory feedback alone"?
o To what extent will mirror neurons have a role to play in our models of the neural basis of communication and cognition"?

Although to the extent possible, Hickok presents the material in language that non-scientists such as I can understand, this was by no means an "easy read" and I plan to re-read it again in a few weeks, first re-reading the two appendices: "A Primer on Brain Organization" and "Cognitive Neuroscience Toolbox." (I wish I had done so the first time around.) Brilliantly, they frame the issues and ambiguities that are discussed with consummate skill.

I agree with Gregory Hickok: "Placed in the context of a more balanced and complex structure, mirror neurons will no doubt have a role to play in our models of the neural basis of communication and cognition." So much more research in neuroscience remains to be conducted and evaluated. I am grateful to anyone who increases my understanding of "mental abilities that have hitherto remained mysterious and inaccessible to experiments." In other words, I am grateful for whatever helps me to gain a better understanding of myself.
27 internautes sur 34 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 The New Mirror Neuron Myth 17 octobre 2014
Par Wayne - Publié sur
And now for a research neuroscientist's academic review of pertinent literature, rather than a cognitive scientist's bias: (although he raises many excellent caveats)

The book you should be reading--

"The discovery of mirror neurons has had a profound effect on the field of social cognition. Here we have reviewed what is currently known about mirror neurons in the different cortical areas in which they have been described. There is now evidence that mirror neurons are present throughout the motor system, including ventral and dorsal premotor cortices and primary motor cortex, as well as being present in different regions of the parietal cortex. The functional role(s) of mirror neurons and whether mirror neurons arise as a result of a functional adaptation and/or of associative learning during development are important questions that still remain to be solved. In answering these questions we will need to know more about the connectivity of mirror neurons and their comparative biology across different species."
"What We Know Currently about Mirror Neurons"
J.M. Kilner and R.N. Lemon, Curr Biol. Dec 2, 2013; 23(23)

Hickock does well to argue for a complete picture when it comes to mirror neurons, including the contiributory role of the sensorimotor system. His outcome however is not to integrate mirror neurons into a bigger picture (what role does he ascribe to mirror neurons if he is being genuinely constructive) but to argue for the primacy of the sensorimotor system to the exclusion of the role of mirror neurons. This exclusionary viewpoint is divisive and not in the scientific mode of Kilner and Lemon.
10 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Interesting Take on Both Science and Mirror Neurons 16 septembre 2014
Par Book Fanatic - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
While the subject of the book is mirror neurons and you get an good explanation of claims being made for them as well as the evidence or lack thereof for such claims, you also get a nice example of how science works. I was interested in the book because I have heard so much about mirror neurons and I wanted to understand what they were really all about. However, I found myself drawn to the author's contrary view which is very well articulated and argued.

I think people interested in the brain and science in general will enjoy this book, but if the idea of a book about a very specific topic within neuroscience doesn't sound appealing, you probably aren't going to like it. Otherwise I easily recommend it.
4 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Scientific method at its best 14 octobre 2014
Par sully - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
When I first saw the title of this book, I was taken aback. I had read various books written by science writers and researchers on various topics from consciousness, the sense of self, autism and even psychopathy and all of them had treated mirror neurons as firm established scientific fact. These authors then used mirror neurons to explain aspects of their subjects. Then I see this book entitled; "The Myth of Mirror Neurons", and figured it was written by a type of anti-scientific crank and was curious.
Now that I have read the book, I know that the author is far from an anti-science crank dismissing a firm scientific fact. The author is a professor of cognitive science and has written a very scientific and understandable book. This book teaches you about the origins of the idea of mirror neurons at first. Then in a very coherent and well argued style the book reveals that mirror neurons have been taken up by many researchers as an explanation of brain functions for which there is little real evidence that the mirror neurons are the true basis. Indeed, the mirror neurons may not actually exist, but such functions may be parts of other areas in the brain. The book relentlessly undermines the claims of mirror neuron believers with well done experiments which always refer to the original findings of the first discoverers of mirror neurons. Essentially, you realize that mirror neurons have lost touch with reality and have been taken up as a magic bullet which explain things way beyond its explanatory basis.
This book is all good science and the way things should work. Science must always self correct and not run off in unfounded directions. This not the work of a crank at all but it is a great example of the scientific method at its best. Good science must always think about the foundations of its facts otherwise the facts become beliefs.
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