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Language, Music, and the BrainA Mysterious Relationship$
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Michael A. Arbib

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780262018104

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262018104.001.0001

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Shared Meaning, Mirroring, and Joint Action

Shared Meaning, Mirroring, and Joint Action

(p.83) 4 Shared Meaning, Mirroring, and Joint Action
Language, Music, and the Brain

Leonardo Fogassi

The MIT Press

Mirroring the behavior of others implies the existence of an underlying neural system capable of resonating motorically while this behavior is observed. This chapter aims to show that many instances of “resonance” behavior are based on a mirror mechanism that gives origin to several types of mirror systems, such as those for action and intention, understanding, and empathy. This mechanism provides an immediate, automatic kind of understanding that matches biological stimuli with internal somatomotor or visceromotor representations. It can be associated with other cortical circuits when an understanding of others’ behavior implies inferential processes. Properties of the mirror system are described in monkeys, where it was originally discovered, as well as in humans. Discussion follows on how the system can be involved in social cognitive functions such as understanding of goal-directed motor acts, intention, and emotions. The possible involvement of this system/mechanism in mirroring language and music is then discussed, and it is suggested that it initially evolved for action understanding in nonhuman primates and could have been exploited for other functions involving interindividual interactions. Published in the Strungmann Forum Reports Series.

Keywords:   shared meaningmirror system, resonance behavior, action, intention, empathy

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