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Plasticity of the motor system and the role of early experience in the construction of a social mind in human and nonhuman primates

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Internal representations of external events have been often discussed within the framework of action-perception coupling and embodied theories of cognition. Objects, space and others’ action are coded within multiple brain areas that involve parietal-frontal circuits, which are involved in sensorimotor transformations. This sensory-motor coupling emphasizes the key role the motor system plays in the construction of such representations.

Paradigms used to investigate these circuits in humans and other primates, are mainly based on oculomotor and arm-reaching tasks, which have the advantage to precise monitor physiological and movement parameters. However, most of these studies do not consider that these brain networks emerge through a complex process of interaction of the organism with its environment, and secondly, that most of these circuits are involved in multiple functions, often in relation to social cognitive processing. The work on mirror neurons is probably one of the best examples of how neural circuits, originally evolved to track the own hand in space, have actually become part of a system that is critical for social-cognitive purposes.

More recent work has challenged the traditional views of motor representation as fixed entities. Exploring the plasticity of the motor system during its unfolding in the early developmental period provides new interpretative tools concerning the nature of representations in the brain. In particular, our knowledge about the early social experiences between the caregiver and her infant has highlighted the importance of early periods of sensitivity in the construction of representation of others’ affective experience. Disturbances in early social experiences might lead to discrepancies in the correspondence between the internal representations of others’ experience and the actual observed behavior. I will explore some of these themes in the attempt to draw some theoretical accounts about how critical is the action-perception coupling for the emergence of a social mind and for the construction of shared experiences/representations.


open to public


Pier Francesco Ferrari (CNRS Lyon)

Journey Description


E - Main Entrance/Reception
1 - Directors, Infection Biology Unit, Pathology Unit, Unit of Infection Models, Primate Genetics Laboratory, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Unit, Cognitive Ethology Laboratory, Neurobiology Laboratory, Research Coordination, Public Relations, Information Technology, Administration, Technical Support, Library.
2 - Material Delivery/Purchase
3 - Stem Cell Biology Unit
4 - Cognitive Neurosciences Laboratory
5 - Primate Husbandry
6 - Imaging Center 

Arrival by car

Leave the interstate A7 at exit "Göttingen Nord". Follow the B27 straight ahead in the direction of "Braunlage". After the third traffic light intersection turn right towards "Kliniken". Afterwards turn left onto "Robert-Koch-Straße" direction "Universität Nordbereich/Polizei". At the end of "Robert-Koch-Straße" turn right onto "Otto-Hahn-Straße", direction "Nikolausberg". The first street on the left turn onto "Kellnerweg", follow the signs "Deutsches Primatenzentrum".

Arrival by bus

The footpath from the bus stop "Kellnerweg" to the Main Entrance/Reception: 
From Bus stop "Kellnerweg" (line 21/22 and 23) Cross the road, go in the direction of the bus. At the mailbox, turn left into the footpath and proceed to the end. Turn right into the Kellnerweg. The main entrance of the DPZ is on the left side.

Date and Time 21.09.17 - 16:00 - 17:30 Signup is not required

Location Lecture hall, DPZ, Kellnerweg 4


Leibniz ScienceCampus Primate Cognition



Christian Schloegl

Leibniz ScienceCampus Primate Cognition



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