Keynote Address/Opening Ceremony
The Mirror Mechanism: New Findings
Thursday, May 26, 2011,
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Exciting discoveries in neuroscience over the last several years have revolved around a mechanism that unifies action perception and action execution. The essence of this mechanism — the mirror mechanism — is that each time individuals observe an action done by others, a set of neurons that code that action are activated in the motor system. Because the observers are aware of the outcome of their motor acts, they also understand what the others are doing without the necessity of an intermediate cognitive mediation. In his talk, Rizzolatti will first present some new discoveries on the mirror mechanism in monkeys. He will then present evidence that humans possess the mirror mechanism and that the anatomical location of parieto-frontal mirror networks of monkeys and humans closely coincide. Then, he will discuss the limits of the mirror mechanism in understanding other people. He will stress that the parieto-frontal mirror mechanism is, however, the only mechanism that allows a person to understand others’ actions from the inside, giving the observing individual a first-person grasp of other individuals’ motor goals and intentions.