Spiegelneuronen und Soziologie, Stand der Forschung

David D. Franks and Jeff Davis, Critique and Refinement of the Neurosociology of Mirror Neurons


in: W. Kalkhoff et al. (Eds.), Biosociology and Neurosociology, Emerald Books 2012.


„MN research could shed new light on some of the core questions within sociology such as the emergent nature of social structure and the relationship between the individual and social structure. MNs are likely to be central mechanisms that make possible the development of imitation, empathy, intersubjectivity, protolanguage, language learning, ritual and cooperation, and culture. These unique phenomena comprise the ‘glue’ of social structure (Collins, 2005; Dijksterhuis, 2005; Goffman, 1969; Scheff, 1990). Thus, the actions of MNs inhere the relationship between the individual and the social world through unconscious and immediate effects on behaviour.“ 78


„Single-neuron recording studies using nonhuman primates have rapidly increased empirical and theoretical knowledge of MNs on many different dimensions (Iacoboni, 2009; Rizzolatti & Craigheor, 2004). For instance, two classes of MNs have been distinguished: strictly congruent MNs, broadly congruent MNs, and noncongruent MNs (Gallese, Fadiga, Fogassi, & Rizzolatti, 1996).“ 80


„Direct evidence of MNs can only be obtained from studies using intracranial microelectrodes. Hoever, this procedure is highly invasive and dangerous to the life and well-being of the patient. Consequently, MN researchers have relied mostly upon indirect approaches to gain insight into the function of MNs in humans.One method, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), is probably used most frequently among neuroscientists.“ 81 f.


„it has one important limitation. Unlike single cell recording using microelectrodes, fMRI can only measure activity in populations of neurons (Huettel et al., 2008).“ 82


Thus far, frindings from fMRI-A studies have produced mixes results for the MN hypothesis. One study has produced supportive evidence (Chong et al., 2008) while two others failed to find any support for the MN hypothesis (Dinstein et al., 2007; Lingnau et al., 2009).“ 82


the difference between Chong et al. And Lingnau et al. Was that in the first study participants were shown „hand movements within a well-defined context, while in the other study „hand movements stripped of any meaningful context“ 83


„In 2010, Fried, Iacobini and colleagues at UCLA made the first direct recording of MNs in the human brain using 21 patients with pharmacologically intractable epilepsy (Mukamel, Ekstrom, Kaplan, Iacobini & Fried, 2010).“ 83


„Their analyses yielded critical support for the MN model. In total, about 8 percent of the 1,177 (n=94) neurons studies cold be classified as MNs. Moreover, these neurons were heavily concentrated in the SMA.“ 84


„The body of supportive evidence suggests that MNs and super MNs can be found in several cortical regions in the brain.“ 85


„Iacobini (2008, p. 67) has insisted that: ‘Mirror neurons are brain cells that seem specialized in understanding our existential condition and our involvement with others. They show that we are not alone, but are biologically designed to be deeply connected with each other. This is no slight fair for those interested in how we partake of each other’s worlds.’“ 88


„The old assumption was that first we think and behaviour comes after thought as we use our privileged cognitive powers to make choices about our motor behaviour. The work of MNs reverses this picture – as said above, effectively challenging the separation of cognitive, perceptual and motor processes.“ 88


„Language, for example, is not so much taught as it is simulated on the part of our motor cortex devoted to speaking – phenomenon some have referred to as ’embodied language’ (Fogassi & Ferrari, 2007).“ 90


„It is often remarked that a significant part of the attraction that many men have to pornography is that they are doing what they are watching however unconsciously in their motor cortex (Struthers, 2009).“ 90


„While there is little doubt that MNs exist in humans, matters are far from settled after that.“ 91


„In monkey, MNs are greatly restricted to hand and mouth movements plus goal directed actions. He attributes the lack of imitation in monkeys to these grave limitations. In humans, MNs respond to movements all over the body and even fire when there is no goal (Gazzaninga, 2008).“ 93


„College students asked merely to think about university professors scored higher on general knowledge questions than those who were asked to think about soccer hooligans (Dijksterhuis, 2005; Dijksterhuis & Nordgren, 2006).“ 95


„we need to understand the intent of what we imitate otherweise we cannot generalize the imitation to different situations. The research on imitation implies that our no-conscious selves are careful of the company we keep (Ramachandran, 2011).“ 95


„Two shapes are drawn, one jaggy and one curvy and the audience is asked which shape is ‘bouba’ and which is ‘kiki’. Regardless of their native tongue, audiences will pick bouba for the curvy picture and kiki for the jagged one. Thus, they are automatically able to recognize the commonality between a jagged visualization and a harsh sound as well as the smooth quality of both the curved visualization and a softened sound. Because this reponse transcends languages, and is quite reliable, we can safely attribute this to automatic tendencies of the human brain. The use of metaphor in sense-making seems to be a universal characteristic of language.“ 98


„the famous ‘Great Leap Forward’ between 100’000 and 60’000 years ago that included an impressive conglomeration of developments for such a short time in evolutionary terms. These include fire, art, artificial shelters, adornment of the body, and the implication of this fors some kind of self-consciousness as well as tools made from different components and finally a more complex use of language. For such diverse abilities to arise together from different genetic mutations is highly improbable.“ 102 f.


„the overall impression can be that an almost complete lack of consensus about the part that MNs play in many important matters (Gallese, et al., 2011; Glensberg, 2011a).“ 104


„the role of the motor system in action understanding or semantics has long been evident. Hauk and Pulvermuller (2011) found that the parts of the motor cortex that participants use to move their feet and fingers are activated by simply reading words relating to their movement.“ 105 f.


„It is clear that the semantic aspect of MN and simulation theory has fared better than the speech production aspect.“ 106


„The fact that MNs ‘can do’ imitation does not mean that they ‘are for’ imitation.“ 107


„Gallese (2011, p. 395) starts with the fact that MNs discharge significantly stronger during action execution than mere observation.“ 108


„the influence of MNs in social interaction remains vital to brain research and neurosociology.“ 109


„If ascertaining the causal effects of MNs on autism prove problematic, the party played by MNs in imitation has been shown to be substantial as it has been for empathy as well as other emotions and even sensation.“ 110



References (selection):


Brothers, L. (1997). Friday’s footprint: How society shapes the human mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Dijksterhuis, A. (2005). Why we are social animals: The high road to imitation as social glue. In S. Hurley & N. Chater (Edss), Perspectives on Imitation: From neuroscience to social science (Vol. 2, pp. 207-220). Cambridge, MA: MIT.


Fogassi, L., & Ferrari, P.F. (2007). Mirror neurons and the evolution of embodied language. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16(3), 136-141.


Franks, D.D. (2010). Neurosociology. The nexus between neuroscience and social psychology, New York: Springer.


Gallese, V. (2008). Mirror neurons and the social nature of language: The neural exploitation hypothesis. Social Neuroscience, 3(3/4), 317-333.


Gazzaniga, M.S. (2008). Human: The Science behind what makes us unique. New York: Ecco.


Gibbs, R.W. (2006). Embodiment and cognitive science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Iacoboni, M. (2009). Imitation, empathy, and MNs. Annual Review of Psychology, 60(1), 653-670.


Keysers, C. (2011). The empathic brain: How the discovery of MNs changes our understanding of human nature. The Netherlands: Social Brain Press.


Moro, A. (2008). The boundaries of Babel: The brain and the enigma of impossible languages. Cambridge: MIT Press.


Ramachandran, V. S. (2011.) The tell-tale brain: A neuroscientist’s quest for what makes us human, New York: W.W. Norton.


Solymoski, T. (2012). Can the two cultures reconcile? Reconstruction and neuropragmatism. In D.D. Franks & J. Turner (Eds.), Handbook of neurosociology, New York: Springer.


Struthers, W. M. (2009). Wired for intimacy: How pornography hijacks the male brain, Downers Grove: IVP Books.


Waal, F.B. (2009). The age of empathy: Nature’s lessons for a kinder society, New York: Harmony Books. [vgl. Rifkin, Empathic Civilization, 2010

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