Cognition through internal models: Mirror neurons as one manifestation of a broader mechanism
Cognition relies on transforming sensory inputs into a more generalizable understanding. Mirror neurons are proposed to underlie this process, yet they fail to explain many key features of human thinking and learning. Here we hypothesize that mirror-like responses are one limited view into a more general framework by which internal models of the world are built and used. We recorded populations of single neurons in the human posterior parietal cortex as a participant felt or observed diverse tactile stimuli. We found that mirror-like responses were fragile and embedded within a richer population response that encoded generalizable and compositional features of the stimuli. We speculate that populations of neurons support versatile understanding, not through mirroring, but instead by encoding representational building blocks of cognition.One-Sentence SummarySimilar neural responses during observed and experienced sensations are mediated by shared compositional building blocks, not mirror neurons.
The copyright holder for this preprint is the author/funder, who has granted bioRxiv a license to display the preprint in perpetuity. It is made available under a CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International license. We thank NS for her bravery and hard work in making this work possible. Funding: National Institute of Health grant R01EY015545 (RAA, TA, NP); Conte Center for Social Decision Making at Caltech grant P50MH094258 (RAA); Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Brain-machine Interface Center at Caltech (RAA, TA); Boswell Foundation (RAA). Data and materials availability: The datasets analyzed for this manuscript will be shared upon reasonable request. The authors have declared no competing interest.
Submitted - 2022.09.06.506071v1.full.pdf