Marco Iacoboni
Mirroring People

Farrar, Strauss and Giroux 2008

91 The fact that the major language area of the human brain is also critical area for imitation and contains mirror neurons offers a new view of language and cognition in general.

By the 1940s, say, cognitive science had become dominated by the idea that the operations of the human mind that generate language and higher cognitive functions are akin to the operations of a computer, manipulating abstract symbols on the basis of specific rules and complications. According to this view, mental operations are largely detached from the workings of the body, with the body a mere output device for commands generated by the manipulation of abstract symbols in the mind. That idea - the human mind as something quite like a computer - held sway for about half a century.

Now a different view has become more and more popular. According to this alternative, our mental processes are shaped by our bodies and by the types of perceptual and motor experiences that are the product of their movement through and interaction with the surrounding world. This view is generally called embodied cognition, and the version of this theory especially dedicated to language is known as embodied semantics. The discovery of mirror neurons has strongly reinforced this hypothesis that cognition and language are embodied.

The main idea of embodied semantics is that linguistic concepts are built „bottom up“ by using the sensori-motor representations necessary to enact those concepts…when we talk, we often use expressions involving actions and body parts: kicking off the year, grasping a concept, can you give me a hand, that cost an arm and a leg, and probably hundreds more according to the embodied semantic a hypothesis, when we say, hear, or read these expressions, we actually activate the motor areas of our brain concerned with the actions performed with those body parts..

209 The discovery of Mirror Neurons:...the implications of the discovery is far-reaching, not only for our understanding of imitative violence and possible decisions to address it, but even in philosophical terms. Many long cherished notions about human autonomy are clearly threatened by the neuroscientific scrutiny of the biological roots of human behaviour. Our notion of free will is fundamental to our worldview, yet the more we learn about mirror neurons, more we realise that we are not rational, free acting agents in the world. Mirror neurons in our brains produce automatic imitative influences of which we are often unaware and that limit our autonomy by means of powerful social influences. We humans are social animals, yet our sociality makes us social agents with limited autonomy…

- the brain as a computer (Gerald Edelman)

- imitation

- empathy

- embodied mind (Francisco Varela)

The Certainty of Uncertainty

Dialogues Introducing Constructivism
Berhard Poerksen
Imprint Academic 2004

Varela: If the brain is considered as a kind of computer then cognitive research is limited to discovering certain self-sufficient shapes - the symbols - together with the rules governing them - the programs. But this search for symbols and programs will never be profitable because it simply does not do justice to the way the brain functions. There are no symbols to be discovered in the brain; the brain is not based on soft­ware; objects or human beings are definitely not represented by way of symbols in the brain, although even most intelligent people once believed this to be so. So there is little point in searching for neuron number 25, which is supposed to represent my grandmother or some other part of the world. The brain is essentially a dynamically organised system; numerous interdependent variables have to be taken into account, which can only be dissociated from each other in an arbitrary way.

Peter Bentley
Digital Biology

The Creation of Life inside Computers and How it Will Affect us
Headline Book Publishing 2001
pg 65
Our brains are the most impressive achievement of evolution we know of. They are several million times more powerful than any computer we have created. Every one of our brains is so complicated that it would take thousands of our best experts in many lifetimes to design and construct anything a fraction as powerful using our current technology.
Our brains also create our sense of self, our consciousness. This very personal part of each of us is created by cells in our skull - the concept so hard to accept that the large percentage of the population believe instead that our self is generated by a supernatural soul. But, whatever you choose to believe, we are long way from having all the answers about the brain. Psychologists tell us what brains do, neurologists tell us how they are organised and neuroscientists tell us what they are made of, but nobody seems to know exactly how it all works.
Nevertheless, despite the ongoing arguments, we know enough to understand the rudiments of decision-making, learning, memory and even consciousness. We certainly know enough to be able to build digital brains within our computers that can make decisions, learn and remember.
pg 100
Understanding brains is a ticklish subject. But science is beginning to shed light on the mysteries within our heads. We now know that our brains think and learn using neurons. These neurons are cleverly via together into networks, each of which can then learn a little like a company with many levels of employees and bosses. The brain is also made from many different regions, and there's regions were slowly added by evolution like the extensions to a building. Finally, consciousness is made from many processes - some unconscious, some not - badly managed like the crowd extremity and the football game.

Digital brains are much less complicated, and we know how they work. Digital brains are usually found within the digital universes of our computers. They are also made up from neurons, accepting signals that they weight, sum, adjust with a threshold and transformed with an activation function. They are also wired into networks, some feedforward, some recurrent.
And they also learn. For example, a neural network might be used for quality control, learning by adjusting the input weights of every neuron to make the output match training examples. Thus subsumption architecture has resulted in robot brains with anatomies - specialised regions or process that perform parallel independent tasks. So that's brains for you: neurons, networks and regions leading to thought.

Gerhard Roth
Das Gehirn und seine Wirklichkeit
Kognitive Neurobiologie
Suhrkamp 1997
Roth_neurobio 20
Seite 20
Erklärung komplexer kognitiver Leistungen:
Bewusstsein, Aufmerksamkeit, Gedächtnis, Handlungsplanung
Das Gehirn kann zwar über seine Sinnesorgane durch die Umwelt erregt werden, diese Erregungen enthalten jedoch keine bedeutungshaften und verlässlichen Informationen über die Umwelt. Vielmehr muss das Gehirn über den Vergleich und die Kombination von Sensoren schon elementarer Ereignissen Bedeutungen erzeugen und diese Bedeutungen anhand interner Kriterien und des Vorwissens überprüfen. Dies sind die Bausteine der Wirklichkeit. Die Wirklichkeit, in der ich lebe, ist ein Konstrukt des Gehirns.

Wolf Singer
Der Beobachter im Gehirn

Essays zu Hirnforschung
Suhrkamp 2002
pg 34f
Die neuropsychologischen Befunde und vor allem die entwicklungsbiologischen Erkenntnisse belegen eindrucksvoll, daß mentale Funktionen aufs engste mit der Funktion der Nervennetze verbunden sind. Lässt sich doch bei der Erforschung der Hirnentwicklung Schritt für Schritt nachvollziehen, wie aus der Aggregation einfacher Grundbausteine der Materie zunehmend komplexere Strukturen entstehen und wie der jeweils erreichte Komplexitätsgrad des Systems mit der Komplexität der je erbrachten Leistung zusammenhängt. Die Entwicklung von Gehirnen stellt sich als stetig und im Rahmen der bekannten Naturgesetze erklärbar dar.





Andy Clark