Exploring the Social Imagination

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Action Observation, What does it Mean for the Social Imagination?

I learned about an interesting experiment called "Action Observation Circuits in the Macaque Monkey Cortex." I provide here the. Abstract: In both monkeys and humans, the observation of actions performed by others activates cortical motor areas. An unresolved question concerns the pathways through which motor areas receive visual information describing motor acts. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we mapped the macaque brain regions activated during the observation of grasping actions, focusing on the superior temporal sulcus region (STS) and the posterior parietal lobe. Monkeys viewed either videos with only the grasping hand visible or videos with the whole actor visible. Observation of both types of grasping videos activated elongated regions in the depths of both lower and upper banks of STS, as well as parietal areas PFG and anterior intraparietal (AIP). The correlation of fMRI data with connectional data showed that visual action information, encoded in the STS, is forwarded to ventral premotor cortex (F5) along two distinct functional routes. One route connects the upper bank of the STS with area PFG, which projects, in turn, to the premotor area F5c. The other connects the anterior part of the lower bank of the STS with premotor areas F5a/p via AIP. Whereas the first functional route emphasizes the agent and may relay visual information to the parieto-frontal mirror circuit involved in understanding the agent's intentions, the second route emphasizes the object of the action and may aid in understanding motor acts with respect to their immediate goal. What does this mean? Well... it means that the topic of action observation/recognition received increased attention after the discovery of mirror neurons in ventral premotor cortex of the monkey (area F5), a class of neurons discharging both when a monkey performs a goal-directed motor act and when it observes another individual performing the same or a similar motor act. *See - http://www.jneurosci.org/content/31/10/3743.full 
As a sociologist, it means, if I can put it into lay terms, that even as we watch a performance, (or action/activity) even before doing it ourselves, our brain recognizes this and records that information. Simply, in the part of our brain that would be responsible for that act/performance, when that action is viewed, our brain is stimulated as if actually doing the 'act'. This is how we are embedded from infancy with information in that babies respond to parents (mother) in all she does and what she does and how she reacts gets hard coded; so that when it comes time for baby to do it, he/she will do it automatically or without hesitation. This hard coding is a safety mechanism (for survival) inasmuch a social tool to be used for future. interaction. Which means that we better think about what we do in front of our children and what we as parents say is ok behavior. We can also consider the effects of social media (television) as producing negative results in society. A healthy society should monitor the violence and sex on television as well as what we sell each other in adds. What do we see out there today in terms of advertisement - Sex and Drugs and the law as a means to make money. As I reflect on this study I am horrified. As I see through the prism of my education that society is moving in a dangerous direction. It is being programmed to do damage rather than to do good. There is a tool used called the Sabido Methodology which I know I have written on before. It is a tool of social engineering developed by Miguel Sabido. The Sabido Method is based on character development and plot lines that provide the audience with a range of characters that they can engage with — some good, some not so good — and follow as they evolve and change. And it is change that is the key to the Sabido methodology. Characters may begin the series exhibiting the antithesis of the values being taught, but through interaction with other characters, twists and turns in the plot, and sometimes even outside intervention, come to see the value of the program’s underlying message. Yes, of course, it is and or was designed to benefit society. Which level of society? and what change does that level want for all others??? As Steve Brown says, "You think about that".

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