Tag Archives: motor skill learning

Mirror neurons and music, part IV: mirroring vs. mimicking

Mirror neurons are imitation neurons, but does how we imitate matter? Forty years ago, long before mirror neurons were known about, psychologists Seymour Wapner and Leonard Cirillo were interested in finding out at what age children develop an understanding of right from left in terms of their spatial development. They conducted a series of experiments in which children of different ages were asked by the mirror imageresearcher to “do as I do” as researcher and child were facing each other. Young children would imitate the adult researcher as though seeing him in a mirror. If the researcher raised his right hand, the child would raise his left.   Mirror imitation.  Continue reading

Mirror neurons and music, part III: imitation learning

Photograph:  Lewis Whyld/PA

Photograph: Lewis Whyld/PA

Pianists seem to be used as research subjects more often than any other musicians – perhaps because there are so many of us, both amateur and professional. I once met a well-known singer who, upon finding out that I was a pianist, remarked that pianists “are a dime a dozen.”  Not the most gracious comment when meeting someone.  On the other hand, our numbers guarantee a ready supply of subjects for neuroscience research, including research on mirror neurons.  And speaking of lots of pianists, I couldn’t resist this photo of fifty-two pianos with, I believe, two pianists at each piano, taken at Royal Festival Hall in London in May 2011 on a “massed piano day,”  held during a five-day mini festival, “Lang Lang Inspires.”  This photo illustrates an aspect of mirror neurons that I hope will become clear over the next few posts.

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