A Bright, Vibrant Blue Diamond
A Bright, Vibrant Blue Diamond
John Æonid, Reflections in a Personal Web Site
John Æonid, Reflections in a Personal Web Site

The Mirror Neuron Mechanism

December, 26, 2016, John Æonid — ROUGH DRAFT

Mirror Neurons where initially observed in terms of neurological impulses.  I'm writing out what is purely speculation about their nature.  I do not have the resouses to delve into all of the research of the subject, so I starting with an assumption that there is an important question that has yet to be answered.

when I read about Mirror Neurons, I get the impression that they will be found to be a parallel set of neurons that sit along side actual motor neurons, somotasensory neurons, and others.  But, I'm not convinced that this is necessarily so.  From a systems point of view, the role of Mirror Neurons might actually work in three particular ways, the first of which being that there are no mirror neurons.  And, I don't think this list can be any larger.

Mirroring of behavior could be:

  1. Purely virtual (no mirror neurons)
  2. Parallel: Mirror Neurons alongside associated neurons
  3. Sequential: Mirror Neurons preceding functional neurons

I favor the third possibility--that Mirror Neurons get idea of an action or sensation before they pass it on to the neuron that either passes an movement signal on to a muscle or passes a sensation (or such) on to the neuron that recognizes the effect as belonging to the "self".

My reason for suspecting this comes from a couple of points.  First, I've been one to mentally reherse physical activities as a medidation, and I've had the experience of an intensely imagined action resulting a jerk of the body--one involving the parts of the body that would have been involved in the imagined activity.  Second, I'm aware of research (currently looking for the reference) that has shown two distinct periods in certain measurements of motor impulses, one following the other.  The first point alone is not enough to suggest the sequential model, but if there is a sequential aspect to Mirror Neurons, then we should expect to see measureable artifacts. 

I wonder if Mirror Neurons didn't evolve out of a kind of load and fire mechanism.  Coordinating complex movements might well have needed a way to marshal all of the necessary signals before allowing them to pass on to their final destination (TODO: Need more reading on Benjamin Libet).  In computer technology, we similarly also have computer circuitry that coordinates activity in such a way.  And, this fits with the presence of inhibitory region of the brain and other aspects of neurology.  I've also heard (and I don't remember where) that moving a single finger consists of one signal to move all fingers combined with another signal to hold the others still, and I haven't yet found an article to confirm this or decide if this is relevant (TODO).

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