The Life & Mind Seminar Network

Seminar #52: Enacting motor goals

Posted in Seminars by Tom Froese on May 15, 2009

We will have Massimiliano Cappuccio visit us next Wednesday to give a Life and Mind talk at 4:30pm in Arun-401. Title and abstract below:

Enacting motor goals: mirror neurons, motor intentionality and the frame problem

Massimiliano Cappuccio

Time: 4:30-6:00pm
Date: Wed. 20th, May 2009
Location: Arun-401

Experiments carried out by Rizzolatti’s group in Parma suggest that the premotor cortex may codify not only simple movements, but also intentions related to motor goals. Mirror neuron circuits and canonical neuron circuits, for instance, are functionally defined by the pragmatic-transformative meaning of typologies of actions embedded in their intentional context, and not by their syntactical-kinematic structure. The existence of such structures suggests that proprioception, kinaesthesia and somatosensory information are not the only required elements (and not the most fundamental ones) in order to execute/recognize goal-oriented intentional actions, because an embodied familiarity toward the holistic practical meaning of a motor goal is required of intentional agents in order to perform purposeful actions as intelligent projects of intervention into the world. This familiarity is realistically acquired through a dynamic coupling of the agent’s body with a wide set of environmental and behavioural factors and is strictly consequent from the agent’s social history.

Neither a purely associationist nor a purely instructional account of motor cognition seems sufficient in order to explain the emergence of this sort of dynamical coupling, since both these accounts bump into a frame problem connected to the necessity of selecting the practical preconditions that are relevant for reaching a purposeful motor goal. This limitation of current A.I. can be shown by discussing the bio-robotic experiments performed by Metta and Sandini’s with an anthropomorphic robot implementing mirror neuron functions.

As an alternative, I will discuss if Merleau-Ponty’s notion of motor intentionality, recently reconsidered by mirror neuron theorists, could provide a different embodied/embedded account of cognitively simple but richly adaptive goal-oriented motor schemata. The purpose of this enquiry is to evaluate if and how the motor intentional model could be integrated into the enactive theory of cognition.

All welcome!
Tom

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