chapter  12
Embodied simulation: Building meaning through shared neural circuitry
ByVesna Gamez-Djokic, Istvan Molnar-Szakacs, Lisa Aziz-Zadeh
Pages 31

The embodied simulation framework proposes that representations in the brain involved in acting, sensing, and feeling are reused for perceptual representations of other’s acting, sensing, and feeling. This framework provides an important foundation for understanding various higher-level cognitive phenomena in social cognition (Gallese & Sinigaglia, 2011). Indeed, many neuroscientific studies show that the same neural mechanisms involved in processing one’s own actions, sensations, and emotions are involved in both perceiving and understanding the actions, sensations, and emotions of others (Gallese & Goldman, 1998; Gallese, Keysers, & Rizzolatti, 2004; Keysers & Gazzola, 2009; Keysers, Kaas, & Gazzola, 2010). For example observing someone perform an action (e.g. open a bottle of champagne) has been shown to activate brain regions such as the premotor cortex and the posterior parietal cortex that are also related to performing actions (Gallese et al. , 2004; Rizzolatti & Craighero, 2004). Similarly, watching a snake slither up another person’s leg may activate somatosensory cortices (SII) for processing tactile sensations (Keysers et al. , 2004). Lastly, experiencing the emotion of disgust and observing someone else experiencing disgust can activate the anterior insula and adjacent frontal operculum, areas involved in olfactory and gustatory processing and closely connected to visceromotor systems of the brain (Jabbi, Bastiaansen, & Keysers, 2008; Wicker et al. , 2003). These ‘shared circuits’ consist of brain circuits active for both processing our own actions, perceptions, and feelings and when we observe another person have the same experiences. This ‘mirror mechanism’ is believed to allow for pre-ref lective and automatic processes in social cognition that do not necessarily require ref lective metacognition.