In addition, there is some recent evidence
to suggest that, as in the monkey, the human mirror neuron system shows
sensitivity to auditory stimuli related to actions (Aziz-Zadeh et al., 2004;
Buccino et al., 2005).
A similar fronto-parietal network,
including the posterior inferior frontal gyrus (BA 44), adjacent ventral
premotor cortex and the inferior parietal lobule (BA 40), appears to subserve
related functions in the human brain (Rizzolatti and Craighero, 2004).
In addition, subsets of premotor mirror
neurons have been shown to have audiovisual properties, and are able to
represent actions independently of whether they are performed, heard or seen
(Kohler et al., 2002).
These visuomotor neurons discharge both
when the monkey performs an action and when it observes another individual
perform a similar action
2002, after an experiment where monkeys , Kohler et al. discovered that “neurons in monkey premotor cortex that
discharge when the animal performs a speci?c action and when it hears the
related sound” (Kohler et al, 2002:846).
mentioned previously, the mirror neuron system is believed to be a mechanism
that allows an individual to recognize and comprehend the meaning and purpose
of a “message or signal” sent by someone else, by translating that signal in
the receiver’s brain.
an experiment, Borchgrevink found that singing
may facilitate speech and vice versa with left (dominant) hemisphere
anesthesia, much in the same way as Melodic Information Therapy (M.I.T.) does
with aphasia (Borchgrevink, 1982:151). This proves that there is a
connection between music and speech, and that connection subsists in the human
mentions that although we, as humans, are the most complex singers in nature,
scientists’ knowledge on the neurobiology of human singing is not as understood
as the other animals’ (Brown et al., 2004: 363).
– in the form of singing – is found in a limited number of animal’s life,
including humans, gibbons, humpback whales and a few species of birds (Brown et
In recent years,
neuroscience had developed faster than ever due to new techniques and, with
that growth, much research has been carried on the human brain. One of the
subjects that have been and still is being researched in the impact of music in
the human brain.
“People around the world use song and dance
to tell stories, to conduct rituals, to teach children about their history and
culture, to entertain and to relax. We relate to music spontaneously and
effortlessly, and often with an emotional response. Yet the nature of such
musical experiences is extremely complex” (Molnar-Szakacs and Overy,
Brain and Music
Therefore, “dysfunction in the MN system might be
implicated in the generation of the constellation of clinical features which
constitute the autistic syndrome” (Williams et al., 2001:291), as a failure
developing a standard mirror neuron system will prejudice the development of
these important human abilities.
the mirror neurons are important to translate information between the sender
and the receiver, then they might also be important when developing
communication abilities. Williams et al. (2001) suggest that during the
development of a child, the mirror neurons might be crucial foundations
enabling the early simulation (imitation), the development of speech and of
mechanisms of theory of mind.
More relevantly, the mirror neurons are
believed to have provided a base for the evolution of speech and dialogue,
since they act as a bridge between the data received and the action performed
(Rizzolatti et al., 1996).
3Ideomotor apraxia –
disorder of the production of learned, skilled purposeful movements in
individuals who are without elemental motor or sensory defects that could
account for this disorder (Merians et al., 1997:1483)
to Liberman and Mattingly’s theory (1989), the objects of speech perception are
found in the phonetic gesture of the speaker and not in the sounds produced by
them. Those phonetic gestures are represented in the brain as motor commands,
which can be processed by the mirror neurons. Liberman and Mattingly (1989) and
Rizzolatti et al. (1996) share the same opinion as they suggest that those
phonetic gestures are the first thing that the mechanism of speech production
decode into dictation and speech movements.
to Rizzolatti et al. (1996), after executing Positron emission tomography for
an experiment in normal humans, it was found that during grasping observation,
there was an activation of the STS, by measuring the cerebral blood flow. As
well as the stated previously, after functional magnetic resonance imaging
experiments, stimulation of the left Broca’s area became more intense, whilst
humans observed finger movements, mainly, when that same movement was executed at
the same time (Grafton et al., 1996). This shows evidence of ‘mirror neurons’
activity in humans.
experiment on monkeys, Gallese et al. (1996) found a set of neurons present in
the STS that would discharge both during the monkey’s active movements and when
the monkey observed meaningful hand movements made by the experimenter. The movements
observed by the monkey and those which were executed by itself were,
frequently, similar. Those neurons are called “mirror neurons and they provide a way to match observation and
execution of events” (Gallese et al., 1996:606).
et al. (2001:289), states that different types of neurons, “specialised in visual processing of information about the action of
others, have been found in the superior temporal sulcus (STS) of monkeys”.
Back to Baron-Cohen and
Bolton’s records (1993:39), it is written that a proposed theory of autism
suggests that many of the psychological features of autism can be accounted for
“by postulated abnormalities in the
frontal lobe of the brain, since patients with damage in the frontal lobe,
usually, show similar psychologic deficits”. Supporting this theory,
Merians et al. (1997:1487) discussed that patients with damage in the left
frontal part of the brain, specifically, IMA3, may have difficulties
at imitating, although they show to have normal control of their limbs. Therefore,
this study shows that the act of imitation on one self or another body or
object may be connected to the left frontal part of the brain.
Williams et al. (2001:289)
mention that autistic people may copy words, phrases and actions from others,
which is contradictory to what was mentioned above, however, it “offers clues to the underlying neural
In 1999, Hobson and Lee
effected a study aiming to find out if autistic children would imitate another
person’s actions at the same level as non-autistic children. The following was
cited as a discussion within the study: “Individuals
with autism do not ‘link in with’ the expressive aspects of others’ behaviour”
(Hobson and Lee, 1999:658). This study led the researchers to prove that
imitation deficits in autistic individuals.
At a young age, a child
will have trouble acquiring one of the principal mechanisms of theory of mind –
theory theory – therefore, they will
use simulationism theory in order to
develop their theory of mind abilities and use. Another word for simulation is
imitation, which “proposes that children
come to read minds by ‘putting themselves in the other’s shoes’, and using
their own minds to simulate the mental processes that are likely to be
operating in the other” (Williams et al., 2001:288). It is recorded that
imitation provides a mechanism for infants to learn about other people
(Meltzoff and Gopnik, 1993:337).
states that the ability to be able to reflect on the contents of one’s own and
other’s minds is called the theory of mind. Baron-Cohen and Bolton (1993)
suggest that people with autism tend to have difficulties in using the theory
of mind at the same level as other people. Therefore, how do people acquire the
theory of mind from such young age into adulthood? Carruthers
and Smith (1996:4) suggest that theory of mind acquisition comes from “theory theory and simulationism”.
An autistic child, who can
speak, often has trouble communicating and maintain a dialogue with another
person, by, for example, misunderstanding the meaning of the conversation or
not giving enough information to their listener. These anomalies in
communication are believed to reflect the child’s failure to consider what
their listener might be thinking, meaning or interested in. (Baron-Cohen, 2000:182)
Individuals who suffer
from Autism Spectrum Disorder tend to show impairments in emotional tuning,
social interactions and communication (Wan et al., 2010). It is usually
diagnosed during childhood and, suggested to be most severe of the childhood
psychiatric conditions (Baron-Cohen et al., 1993).