Academic Year 2018-2019

Dr. Giacomo Rizzolatti

The “Mirror” Brain

Mirror mechanism is a basic neural mechanism that transforms sensory representations of others' actions into motor representations of the same actions in the brain of the observer. In the first part of my talk I will describe the functions of the mirror mechanism located in the parieto-fontal network of monkeys and humans. I will show that this mechanism enables one to understand others in an immediate, phenomenological way, without recourse to cognitive inferential processing. In the second part of my talk I will discuss the role of the mirror mechanism in understanding basic Darwinian emotions. I will focus on disgust, fear and happiness and will demonstrate the role of the mirror mechanism in empathic experience of these emotions, contrasting it to their mere cognitive recognition. The data on emotions will lead me to the last part of my talk where I will present stereo-EEG data on action and emotion recognition. Stereo-EEG allows one to go beyond the static three-dimensional maps obtained with fMRI providing a four dimensional picture (space plus time) of brain activations during different types of actions.


Date/Time: Thursday, October 25, 2018, 4:00-5:30 p.m.
 Merrill Learning Center (Library) B111

Dr. Giacomo Rizzolatti is Professor Emeritus of Human Physiology at University of Parma and Responsible of the CNR -URT Neuroscience of Parma. He is affiliated with the Istituto di Neuroscienze, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche – CNR, Parma, Italy; Dipartimento di Neuroscienze, Università di Parma. The main focus of Dr. Rizzolatti's research concerns the motor system and its role in cognitive functions.

Dr. Rizzolati is the discoverer of the mirror neurons. He is a Member of Academia Europaea, of Accademia dei Lincei, of the Institute de France (Académie des Sciences), and Honorary Foreign Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Foreign Member of National Academy of Science (USA).

He is an Honorary member of Italian Society for Neuroscience and Italian Physiological Society and has received many awards, including: "Feltrinelli Prize for Medicine" of Accademia dei Lincei, prix IPSEN, Neuroplasticity,  the Grawemeyer Award for Psychology, Prix Signoret, Neuropsychology, Fondation IPSEN, and the Brain Prize from Lundbeck Foundation.

Dr. Rizzolati has been conferred honorary degrees from the University Claude Bernard of Lyon, from the University of St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg, from the University of Sassari, from KU Leuven and University of St. Martin, Buenos Aires. Recently, the professor emeritus received the prestigious “Premio Lombardia è Ricerca” of one million Euros.