The School is pleased to announce a Special School of Psychology seminar this Friday from Drs. Richard Ramsey and Emily S. Cross of the University of Nottingham and Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive & Brain Sciences.
TITLE: Understanding Other People's Actions: The Mirror System and Beyond
When we see a person reach for an apple or leap elegantly across a stage, we easily understand who is performing these actions and why. How we achieve such efficient action understanding is an important question for social cognition. One influential idea is that neurons within inferior frontal and parietal cortices respond in a similar manner during action perception and action execution. Consequently, we understand other‚s actions by „mirroring‰ them. In the current talk, we use evidence from functional magnetic resonance imaging studies to argue that action understanding requires more than the purported mirror neuron system. We begin by addressing which brain regions encode who is acting in a simple social scene. We show that fusiform gyrus encodes the identity of an individual performing simple actions. This demonstrates that brain regions beyond the mirror system encode who is acting. Next we discuss how action expertise can help to further illuminate differential contributions of the mirror system and other regions to action understanding. With a series of studies using dancers and contortionists, we identify how responses within these regions are modulated by the observers‚ skill set. Moreover, we quantify how these neural responses change after physical or observational practice. Findings from these studies are compatible with the hypothesis that brain regions within and beyond the mirror system are involved in simple and more complex action understanding.
(Dr. Ramsey): http://www.psychology.nottingham.ac.uk/staff/lpzrr/
(Dr. Cross): http://www.cbs.mpg.de/staff/cross-10987