Saturday, October 31, 2009

Mirror Neurons

Recently when talking about things I'd been blogging about with a friend who is very knowledgeable about current brain research, she told me about mirror neurons, which set off a cascade of things falling into place for me. Here are some snips from Wikipedia on the subject:

>>  mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. Thus, the neuron "mirrors" the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting. . .

A large number of experiments . . .  have shown that certain brain regions . . .  are active when a person experiences an emotion (disgust, happiness, pain, etc.) and when he or she sees another person experiencing an emotion. . . 

More recently, Christian Keysers at the Social Brain Lab and colleagues have shown that people that are more empathic according to self-report questionnaires have stronger activations both in the mirror system for hand actions and the mirror system for emotions, providing more direct support to the idea that the mirror system is linked to empathy. . . 

This has led to suggestions that human language evolved from a gesture performance/understanding system implemented in mirror neurons. Mirror neurons have been said to have the potential to provide a mechanism for action understanding, imitation learning, and the simulation of other people's behaviour. . . 

In Philosophy of mind, mirror neurons have become the primary rallying call of simulation theorists concerning our 'theory of mind.' 'Theory of mind' refers to our ability to infer another person's mental state (i.e., beliefs and desires) from their experiences or their behavior. . . <<

Research on all of this is in the earliest of stages, so it may not pan out, but if it does, here are some of the things it would illuminate.

* My notion of getting "traction" with a client or audience.

* Jonathan West's point about mimicry being so important to musicality

* My long held intuition that gesture is a substrate of music making.

* How "flow" can be shared by music makers and their audience.

* Why simply demonstrating a point about music making can be so effective.

* A John Ericson post months ago about how imagining shooting free throws was as helpful as actually doing so.

* How music can communicate emotions.

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