Podcast: Michael Arbib on Mirror Neurons

Added by Mark Spencer, ITANLP Trainer, Educator and Coach

A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal or human acts and also when the human or animal observes the same action performed by another.

From an NLP perspective, we would say that the functions of Mirroring were discovered 20 years earlier by Grinder and Bandler during the earliest days of the creation of NLP and it took some years for the Scientific community and the associated instruments (such as fMRI) to prove or rediscover them.

Brain Science Podcast #39: Michael Arbib on Mirror Neurons
Originally Posted on Brain Science Podcast Archive, June 13, 2008, Transcript .pdf

Episode 39 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Dr. Michael Arbib from the University of Southern California. Dr. Arbib’s work with functional brain imaging has established the presence of mirror neurons in the human brain. In our interview we focused on the role of mirror neurons in imitation and language. In particular I questioned Dr. Arbib about the Mirror System Hypothesis (MSH) of Language Evolution that he proposed in 1998 with Giacomo Rizzolatti. We also explored how this hypothesis diverges from the universal grammar proposed by Noam Chomsky. Dr. Arbib also shared his enthusiasm for future research and we talked about the special challenges caused by the interdisciplinary nature of modern neuroscience.

Play the Podcast here:
39-brainscience-Arbib.mp3 or
from Brain Science Podcast


  • Brain Science Podcast #7: A discussion of bonobos with Stuart Shanker, PhD
  • Brain Science Podcast #30: a discussion of language evolution including my thoughts on Chomsky
  • “Mirrors in the Brain: How Our Minds Share Actions and Emotions”, Giacomo Rizzolatti & Corrado Sinigaglia, Oxford Univ. Press, Engl. 2008(Ital. 2006). ISBN 978-0-19-921798-4, HC 242/193. Bibliog. 41 pages., Index 8 pages., 8 3/4″ x 5 3/4″.
    “When a paradigm-shattering discovery is made in science, it goes through three stages before gaining acceptance. First, people don’t believe; second, they claim it is of no interest; and third, they say that they have always known it. The discovery of mirror neurons in the early 1990s by Giacomo Rizzolatti, Vittorio Gallese, Marco Iacoboni and others, has been through all three stages. Happily, the idea seems to have emerged unscathed, judging from Mirrors in the Brain… a long-awaited review…[written] in a jargon-free style that should be intelligible to all.” — Nature

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