Humans are an exquisitely social species. Our survival critically depends on our ability to thrive in complex social situations.
During the 5th Einstein Lecture on May 11, 2007, evidence will be presented that, in our brain, there is a specific neural mechanism (mirror neuron mechanism) that allows us to understand the actions done by others, their intentions, and emotions. The mirror mechanism produces, in our brain, motor representations that reflect actions and emotions observed in others.
Because we know the outcome of our motor representations, we have, through the mirror mechanism, an immediate, direct knowledge of what the others are doing and feeling.
Giacomo Rizzolatti was born in 1937 in Kiev. He studied medicine in Padua and neurophysiology in Pisa. He is professor for human physiology at the University of Parma after stays at the Universities of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and the University of California (UCLA). He is a member of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, the Academia Europaea, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and foreign member of the Académie Francaise des Sciences. The discovery of the so-called mirror neurons brought him worldwide attention.