Mirror neurons and the neural exploitation hypothesis
from embodied simulation to social cognition
The relevance of the discovery of mirror neurons in monkeys and of the mirror neuron system in humans to a neuroscientific account of primates' social cognition and its evolution is discussed. It is proposed that mirror neurons and the functional mechanism they underpin, embodied simulation, can ground within a unitary neurophysiological explanatory framework important aspects of human social cognition. A neurophysiological hypothesis – the "neural exploitation hypothesis' – is introduced to explain how key aspects of human social cognition are underpinned by brain mechanisms originally evolved for sensory-motor integration. It is proposed that these mechanisms were later on exapted as new neurofunctional architecture for thought and language, while retaining their original functions as well. By neural exploitation, social cognition and language can be linked to the experiential domain of action.
Gallese, V. (2009)., Mirror neurons and the neural exploitation hypothesis: from embodied simulation to social cognition, in J. A. Pineda (ed.), Mirror neuron systems, New York, Humana Press, pp. 163-190.
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