MIRROR NEURONS and imitation learning as the driving force behind "the
great leap forward" in human evolution
By V.S. Ramachandran
The discovery of mirror neurons in the frontal lobes of
monkeys, and their potential relevance to human brain evolution — which I
speculate on in this essay — is the single most important "unreported" (or
at least, unpublicized) story of the decade. I predict that mirror neurons
will do for psychology what DNA did for biology: they will provide a
unifying framework and help explain a host of mental abilities that have
hitherto remained mysterious and inaccessible to experiments. [...]
Following Darwin's lead I suggest that our vocal equipment and our
remarkable ability to modulate voice evolved mainly for producing
emotional calls and musical sounds during courtship ("croonin a toon.").
Once that evolved then the brain — especially the left hemisphere — could
But a bigger puzzle remains.
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