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Books by Marco Iacoboni
Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist at the University of California at Los Angeles, is best known for his work on mirror neurons, a small circuit of cells in the premotor cortex and inferior parietal cortex. What makes these cells so interesting is that they are activated both when we perform a certain action—such as smiling or reaching for a cup—and when we observe someone else performing that same action. In other words, they collapse the distinction between seeing and doing. In recent years, Iacoboni has shown that mirror neurons may be an important element of social cognition and that defects in the mirror neuron system may underlie a variety of mental disorders, such as autism. Mind Matters editor Jonah Lehrer chats with Iacoboni about his research.
Las neuronas espejo: Empatía, neuropolítica, autismo, imitación, o de cómo entendemos a los otros
We will now focus on the first system, which involves learning based on observation and imitation. The anatomical organization of the first system responds to a somatopic hierarchy of the ventral premotor cortex, being the motor acts of the legs located in the dorsal zone; the facial behaviors located ventrally, and the manual ones with an intermediate distribution. The location of proximal motor acts moving the hand towards a point are represented dorsally, while the simple act of grasping produces a ventral activity in the premotor cortex. On the other hand, the observation of motor acts produces a differential activation in the parietal cortex, as well. The observation of transitive acts produces an activation of the intraparietal sulcus, as well as an activation of the parietal convexity adjacent to that area. The observation of intransitive acts -regardless of whether they are symbolic acts or mimic repetition- find a specific activity in the posterior part of the supramarginal gyre, which extends to the angular gyre.