Motor Cognition: What Actions Tell the Self

Oxford University Press (2006)
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Abstract

Our ability to acknowledge and recognise our own identity - our 'self' - is a characteristic doubtless unique to humans. Where does this feeling come from? How does the combination of neurophysiological processes coupled with our interaction with the outside world construct this coherent identity? We know that our social interactions contribute via the eyes, ears etc. However, our self is not only influenced by our senses. It is also influenced by the actions we perform and those we see others perform. Our brain anticipates the effects of our own actions and simulates the actions of others. In this way, we become able to understand ourselves and to understand the actions and emotions of others. This book is the first to describe the new field of 'Motor Cognition' - one to which the author's contribution has been seminal. Though motor actions have long been studied by neuroscientists and physiologists, it is only recently that scientists have considered the role of actions in building the self. How consciousness of action is part of self-consciousness, how one's own actions determine the sense of being an agent, how actions performed by others impact on ourselves for understanding others, differentiating ourselves from them and learning from them: these questions are raised and discussed throughout the book, drawing on experimental, clinical, and theoretical bases. The advent of new neuroscience techniques, like neuroimaging and direct electrical brain stimulation, together with a renewal of behavioral methods in cognitive psychology, provide new insights into this area. Mental imagery of action, self-recognition, consciousness of actions, imitation can be objectively studied using these new tools. The results of these investigations shed light on clinical disorders in neurology, psychiatry and in neuro-development. This is a major new work that will lay down the foundations for the field of motor cognition.

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