With this cautionary proviso I will use the term MNS except where I explicitly

With this cautionary proviso i will use the term mns

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numerous MNSs, or that different groups of MNs could belong to different systems. With this cautionary proviso, I will use the term MNS except where I explicitly mean individual neurons or where I want to avoid pre-judging the number of systems involved. 2.2 Are MNSs sufficient? There are plenty of theoretical and empirical reasons to doubt that a matching relation in the sense of mirroring could suffice for understanding intentions or emotions. Let me start with two theoretical considerations. The first has to do with action understanding and thus with the motor mirroring. Action understanding appears to require a more abstract kind of representation (i.e. conceptual processing) than motor representation, since one action can be carried out with different movements and different actions can be carried out with one and the same movement in different contexts (e.g. Jacob and Jeannerod 2005). Note that it is not clear whether this objection applies to understanding emotions by mirroring. The second theoretical consideration is that understanding an intention or an emotion involves ascription of a representation of that intention or that emotion – simply mirroring (being in the same state as) as someone else does not count as understanding that that state refers to them rather than to oneself (e.g. Goldman 2006). There is also plenty of empirical work that casts doubt on robust interpretations of MNSs. I will just mention one widely cited study here to give you the flavor. Brass et al. (2007) used fMRI to measure brain activity in human subjects watching videos of an actor performing unusual actions, such as using her knee to turn on a light. The videos differed with respect to the ease with which the 1 For an overview, see Rizzolatti and Craighero 2004. 2 Goldman 2006 reviews and dicusses the work on affect mirroring, Bastiaansen et al 2009 the work on mirroring of tactile sensations.
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action could be interpreted. In one set, the actor had her hands full, so it was obvious why she was using her knee. In the other, her hands were free, so the use of her knees was opaque. The authors argue that the latter condition should activate any system involved in action understanding more than the former condition, since it is a more challenging case for action understanding. And it turned out not to be areas associated with MNSs but areas associated with context-sensitive inferential processes of rationalization or mentalizing that are based on the visual processing of the stimuli – STS, TPJ, aFMC (anterior fronto-median cortex) and pCC (posterior cingulate cortex). They conclude that MNSs are not substantially involved in understanding global or prior intentions. 2.3 Are MNSs necessary? As compelling as these critical considerations are, they are still compatible with the view that MNSs are crucially involved in understanding intentions and emotions, e.g. that they are necessary although not sufficient for understanding at least some intentions and/or emotions. What would motivate such a view? Focusing on actions for the moment, one may object to a strict theoretical
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