On September 3, 2013, Oxford University Press published Michael Graziano’s book, Consciousness and the Social Brain. He is a professor of neuroscience at Princeton University, and is highly accomplished both as a scientist and as an author. In this book he presents a novel theory about the origin of consciousness.
Of note is the cover the book: Mirror Neurons. This is my 10 ft x 13 ft, wall mounted installation piece, which was installed in November 2012 and was on display until October 2014 at TB Studios in downtown Chicago.
Mirror neurons were first discovered by Italian neurophysiologists in the 1980’s. In studying the movement controlling neurons, in the cerebral cortex of monkeys, they found neurons that participated in active movements, such as reaching for an object. They also responded, in a similar electrophysiologic fashion, to monkeys seeing that same movement performed by another. This confirmed observation in animals and in humans, led to the concept that mirror neurons are responsible for us having empathy for others. If our neurons respond to our own activities, and similarly respond to activities we see performed by others, the network instantly produces empathic understanding. Thus, empathy emerges from networks of these mirror neurons. The “Theory of Mind” arose from these concepts. In clinical neurology, there are many theorists who feel that a deficiency in the functioning of mirror neurons may be a cause of autism. This link to autism is very speculative, but worthy of serious attention.
In creating this installation I wanted to include a sense of mirror actions and of movement. The elliptical loops suggest whirling, the course of planetary motion, the endless loops of reverberation within our own memories.