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Mirror neuron: a beautiful unnecessary concept 


Mirror neurons theory, which had been put forward in the eighties based on the results of cognitive research experiments on the macaque monkeys, has prima facie been further validated by the extensive cognitive neurosciences investigations of primates and humans, over the past three decades. The concept was initially prompted by the fact that the brain activity patterns of the subjects were nearly similar, whether the activity was performed or observed by them. And presently, learning of various natures and empathy, and perhaps some aspects of survival, are ascribed to the operations of this class of neurons. Obviously the added complexity on the already complex field of neurosciences cannot be underestimated; and of course there are opponents of the theory, and some profound questions have been raised. Present work, though also in opposition, is based on completely different ground: the fact that the ingenious and grand efforts of the proponents of the theory can be explicated in the realm of the established neural structure of the brain and its computational operations. This possibility is based on the recent discovery of the tactile nature of the vision sensation. Ironically all the results, which form the basis of the mirror neuron concept, also serve to provide the conceptual proof of the new vision theory, which preempts any need for the introduction of the new class of neurons. The vision theory, partially validated through the efforts of the development of the tactile vision substitution systems (TVSS) and ironically also by some to the point mirror neuron experimental works, are sufficient to explain the processes behind empathy, learning and perhaps other mental phenomena; and as such, the need for presumption of additional class of neurons is dispelled. The mental phenomena, which rendered the claim of the mirror neurons, are simply the consequence of subjects beings variably touched by the state of the living environment, through the coherent tactile operation of all senses (four already known as having tactile nature); eyes having the most prominent role: It is the brain’s response (the computations outputs) as motor cortex activity,-- subsequent to the discernment of the streaming massive tactile input data, to appropriately coordinate the observer’s perceived (tactile) engagement, conditioned by the her mental intentional stance sourced in the brain’s protocols (acquired neural patterns)- -which is misinterpreted as the evidence for the conceptualization of the mirror neuron.


mirror neurons, computational brain, vision, tactile sensation