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Luciano Fadiga: Sensorimotor Revolutions

Luciano Fadiga: Sensorimotor Revolutions

University of Ferrara and Italian Institute of Technology, Italy

In his book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” the American philosopher Thomas S. Kuhn was very strong in underlining the resistance that the scientific community opposes to paradigm shifts. The reaction of the old Neuroscience/Psychology against the novelty of embodied perception represents a typical example of how some people resist to novelties by preferring the established, dominant view.

Indeed, already 40 years have passed since the first description by Bruce and Goldberg of visuomotor neurons in the Frontal Eye Field of the monkey. After this discovery, multimodal neurons have been found in the ventral premotor (visual-somatosensory-motor), parietal, prefrontal cortices and likely represent a way of functioning of the brain that in my view MUST be taken into account. Conversely, there are yet “ancien régime” scientists who prefer to conceive the brain as a sequential machine, where the visual cortex takes videos, the auditory cortex records audio, the motor cortex activates muscles and the associative cortices “think”.

In my presentation, based on empirical findings, I will first concentrate on the structure of visuomotor representations, then I will discuss the particular case of mirror neurons by exposing the main novelties of the last years and I will conclude on what we have more recently found in the field of speech/language sensorimotor structures. I will conclude by proposing that, against the conservative position of some influencer’s/influencing views, what we call syntax may indeed be the result of the evolution of a sensorimotor architecture already present in non-human primates.

Luciano Fadiga has a medical degree and a doctorate in Neuroscience. He is professor of Physiology at Ferrara University and director of the Center for Translational Neurophysiology at the Italian Institute of Technology. He co-discovered the so-called "mirror neurons", which are the neurological substrate of interacting and communicating between individuals. He has always been interested in these issues. He believes that understanding the mechanisms of the brain is essential to understanding how to improve interpersonal relationships. He is the coordinator of an interdisciplinary group of about 40 researchers at UniFe and IIT who are dedicated to the study of the mechanisms of interaction and communication, including through brain-computer interfaces. He believes that great discoveries occur at the boundaries between disciplines. He is the author of over 250 publications. His scientific work has received more than 50,000 international citations. He enjoys sailing.