Episode 39 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Dr. Michael Arbib from the University of Southern California. Dr. Arbib's work with functional brain imaging has established the presence of mirror neurons in the human brain. In our interview, we focused on the role of mirror neurons in imitation and language. In particular, I questioned Dr. Arbib about the Mirror System Hypothesis (MSH) of Language Evolution that he proposed in 1998 with Giacomo Rizzolatti. We also explored how this hypothesis diverges from the universal grammar proposed by Noam Chomsky. Dr. Arbib also shared his enthusiasm for future research and we talked about the special challenges caused by the interdisciplinary nature of modern neuroscience.
How to get this episode:
- Brain Science Podcast #7: A discussion of bonobos with Stuart Shanker, PhD.
- Brain Science Podcast #30: a discussion of language evolution including my thoughts on Chomsky.
- Brain Science Podcast #35: a detailed discussion of Mirrors in the Brain, by Giacomo Rizzolatti.
Scientists mentioned in the interview:
- Giacomo Rizzolatti: His team discovered mirror neurons at the University of Parma, Italy. Other team members: Vittorio Gallese, Luciano Fadiga, and Leo Fogassi.
- Ursula Bellugi (Salk Institute): pioneered the neurobiology of sign language.
- Richard Byrne (University of St. Andrews): studies how gorillas learn in the wild.
- Michael Tomasello (Max Planck Institute for Comparative Anthropology): studies social behavior of primates, including how communicative gestures vary between groups.
- Noam Chomsky (MIT): famous linguist who has proposed an inborn universal grammar.
- DL Cheney and RM Seyfarth: research about primate vocal behavior, especially the use of calls in the wild.
- Cybernetics, by Norbert Wiener- this classic inspired Dr. Arbib's career in computational neuroscience.
- Action to Language via the Mirror Neuron System, (2006) edited by Michael Arbib.
- Mirrors in the Brain by Giacomo Rizzolatti and Corrado Sinigaglia, 2008. Discussed in Episode 37.
- Mirroring People by Marco Iacoboni, 2008. The author studies mirror neurons at UCLA.
- Rizzolatti G & Arbib MA Language within our grasp. Trends in Neuroscience 21(5): 188-194- the first paper describing the Mirror System Hypothesis, 1998.
- Iacoboni M, Molnar-Szakacs I, Gallese V, Buccino G, Mazziotta JC, et al. Grasping the intentions of others with one's own mirror neuron system. PLoS Biol 3 (3): e79, 2005.
- Arbib, M.A., "From Monkey-like Action Recognition to Human Language: An Evolutionary Framework for Neurolinguistics" (with commentaries and author’s response), Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 28:105-167. (Click here for supplemental commentaries and the author’s “electronic response.”) 2005.
- Arbib MA 2006 "Broca's Area in System Perspective: Language in the Context of Action-Oriented Perception" in Broca's Region, Oxford University Press, pp 153-168.
- Arbib MA 2008 "Invention and Community in the Emergence of Language: Insights from New Sign Languages," in Foundations in Evolutionary Cognitive Neuroscience, Cambridge University Press.
- Click here for more papers by Dr. Arbib. He has also written over 40 books.
Donations and Subscriptions are appreciated