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Thread: Can we distinguish activity of mirror neurons from others?

  1. #1 Can we distinguish activity of mirror neurons from others? 
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    I'm not 100% familiar with how we found out about mirror neurons, and how we can measure their activity.
    I suppose we can't simply see mirror neuron activity on a brain scan. Is this true?

    Anyway, I ask this, because I want to know, when people play video games, whether their mirror neurons are responsible (atleast partly) for the sense of immersion in the game.

    When you watch movies, it seems intuitive to me that part of the emphasis with the characters (and thus immersion) is through mirror neurons.

    But with video games, you control the main character, so it seems somewhat unintuitive to me that mirror neurons would be responsible, even though you are controlling the character yourself. and perhaps more importantly, first person games (where you look through the eyes of the character, and thus can't see the character himself) are as immersive or more immersive than games where you can the character.


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  3. #2  
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    Mirror neurons in humans can certainly be measured!

    Our mirror neurons are triggered by transitive as well as nontransitive actions and are linked to the motor system for imitation.

    Rizzolatti, who discovered mirror neurons in rhesus macaque monkeys, belives that Broca's area is also involved and may be responsible for the evolution of language!?

    Humans also have anti-mirror neurons which are inhibited by observation and exited by execution, to keep us from immitating everything.


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  4. #3 Re: Can we distinguish activity of mirror neurons from other 
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    Quote Originally Posted by questioner1
    I'm not 100% familiar with how we found out about mirror neurons, and how we can measure their activity.
    I suppose we can't simply see mirror neuron activity on a brain scan. Is this true?
    Traditionally mirror neurons were measured by inserting very tiny electrodes in the macaque cortex, and getting readings of the electric activity of certain cells.

    Because it is not permitted to apply this same invasive method to higher primates, the most prominent way to study mirror neurons in humans is by brain scans.

    There is a huge controversy, however, as deep electrode readings collected directly from the cells, and the BOLD signal (the measure used by fMRI) are very different mediums. One measures the direct bursting of action potentials from the neurons, and the other measures the blood consumption of glial cells. It is assumed that every time a cell fires an action potential the oxygen supply must be replenished by arterial blood, but thats a very indirect way of looking at the activity of a cell.


    Anyway, I ask this, because I want to know, when people play video games, whether their mirror neurons are responsible (atleast partly) for the sense of immersion in the game.

    When you watch movies, it seems intuitive to me that part of the emphasis with the characters (and thus immersion) is through mirror neurons.

    But with video games, you control the main character, so it seems somewhat unintuitive to me that mirror neurons would be responsible, even though you are controlling the character yourself. and perhaps more importantly, first person games (where you look through the eyes of the character, and thus can't see the character himself) are as immersive or more immersive than games where you can the character.
    Well, that's a very good hypothesis, but right now there is no way of really telling if that is the case. Everyone is crazy about mirror neurons right now, they are pointed as the solution to just about any problem of the mind. I think every possibility should be welcomed, but only empirical data will really tell.
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  5. #4  
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    I think I follow, questioner1. With a movie, we empathise or sympathize with the character. We internally model the character's mind. This is mirror neuron territory. However with a 1st-person video game, our character is more like an extension of our selves, like a familiar tool. Curiously, both tool use and empathy are hugely developed in humans. I wonder if they're closely related?
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    I think I follow, questioner1. With a movie, we empathise or sympathize with the character. We internally model the character's mind. This is mirror neuron territory. However with a 1st-person video game, our character is more like an extension of our selves, like a familiar tool. Curiously, both tool use and empathy are hugely developed in humans. I wonder if they're closely related?
    Thank you for the thoughtful remark.
    I think video game playing is more closely related to things like playing pirates or cowboy as a child using your imagination. This behaviour of 'playing someone else' could be related to emphasizing with someone else, because in both cases you use your brain to do that which someone else does, only in games you are making the decisions. I wonder how significant the difference is.
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