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Showing entries tagged mirror system.  Show all entries

December 2, 2011

Resonance among corporeal bodies: it might just exist in humans


"Self-construal" refers to how individuals view and make meaning of the self; at least two subtypes have been identified. Interdependent self-construal is a view of the self that includes relationships with others, and independent self-construal is a view of the self that does not include others. An individual's adoptive cognitive processing style with regard to context sensitivity is thought to be affected by the priming of these two types of self-construal. Simply put, the way a person thinks is influenced by how sensitive they are to their immediate context; priming interdependent or independent self-construal affects an individual's contextual sensitivity and by extension how an individual consequently thinks.


We affect how we think.


Okay, so that's not something new. The interesting thing is the notion that context sensitivity affects motor resonance among corporeal bodies. Yes, I'm talking about the human body and yes, we exhibit resonance. Apparently.


If you're having a hard time swallowing that idea for the first time (or if you're like me and find it intriguing in a nerdy way), perhaps a better way of thinking about it is a sort of 'subconscious chatter' of an individual's behavior emanating out from their body and, depending on how responsive we are to these continuously sent little packets of information, we subconsciously "resonate" the chatter in our own bodies in a social setting. It seems to me that resonance is another way of looking at the nonconscious mind and its effects on our behavior in a way we wouldn't normally think about.


A recent article published in The Journal of Neuroscience presents the case that motor resonance occurs between corresponding muscles in two individuals (at least in a passive observation activity conducted in the study). Ten participants (five male, five female; age range 18-39 years) were subjected to focal transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of contralateral motor cortex while watching a video superimposed by an interdependent self-construal prime word, independent self-construal prime word, or no prime word. Focal contralateral motor cortex TMS elicited motor-evoked potentials (MEPs, amplitudes adjusted to ~1 mV at baseline fixation-cross control condition) measured from the abductor pollicis brevis (APB) muscle [the muscle of your palm attached to your thumb] of the participant's right hand. The 'motor resonance' part of the study was the passive observation of the video that showed a model contracting the APB muscle to squeeze a rubber ball between the index finger and thumb. Interdependent priming-elicited MEPs with a greater amplitude than the unprimed action showed greater motor resonance (presumably due to increased context sensitivity), and independent priming-elicited MEPs with a smaller amplitude than the unprimed action showed less resonance (presumably due to decreased context sensitivity).


They found that observation of the videos regardless of the priming condition facilitated MEPs of greater amplitude compared with the baseline fixation-cross condition (no-priming and interdependent priming condition MEP increases > independent priming condition). Little surprise there; watching a video rather engages more thought than watching fixed crosshairs. Interdependent self-construal priming facilitated motor cortical outputs beyond the unprimed-induced facilitation, and independent self-construal priming relatively suppressed unprimed-induced facilitation. Interdependent self-construal priming effects motor resonance; independent self-construal somewhat depresses motor resonance.


That's pretty interesting. So how does that tie to the whole corporeal resonance-subconscious body-to-body chatter thing?


The underlying idea is behavioral mimicry in social settings; 'contextual motor resonance sensitivity' mediates nonconscious mimicry in social settings, presumably involving the mirror neuron system (appropriately named). We resonate with other individuals on some level depending on our sensitivity to those around us. This implies that the reason why we imitate or mimic other individuals' behaviors and actions is not necessarily because we might under the influence of something and more sociable (disinhibited) from how we normally act or but rather being brought to a more resonance-receptive state/less resonance-unreceptive state; how we are brought to a more receptive state is through priming (by ourselves, others, quotes, environment, etc.). Conversely, priming also takes us farther from resonance reception/stronger resonance resistance. This article concludes that the study therefore supports the idea that motor resonant systems in the human brain mediate behavioral mimicry.


A little more on the mirror system. Complications with the mirror neuron system whether deficits or other abnormalities may play a role in disorders of excessive or reduced social influence, such as individuals with autism spectrum disorders, compulsive imitation, or psycho-pathic personality traits. Novel therapeutic interventions based on the findings of this study may benefit such patients greatly, and may even benefit us as well. Inducing interdependent self-construal could potentially make learning by observation more efficient.


Do you think resonance is the reason why we feel smarter when certain people stand next to us (or is that a bit too far of a stretch...)?



Link to the article: http://www.jneurosci.org/content/31/41/14531.full
Edited by      Patricia W. at 10:09 PM MST
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