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Human Development Psy.

127 4W2

Instructor Aileen McCabe

Discussion 6

By Earl R. Lofland

September 30, 2018

Pinky and the brain

The title is a bit misleading. Those who may be old enough to remember the cartoon by the same

name. This is not about two mice, one a self-proclaimed genus trying to conquer the world.

Instead this is related to what we see and hear and how -hand and finger movements are

corelated by the physiology of the brain. More specifically Interior Parietal Lobe (IPL) (Rozzi,

2008) and the motor cortex of the human brain, where mirror neurons are located. What research

scientists have discovered about these neurons through a relatively new technology used to

measure the' baseline Blood oxygen-level dependent imaging, (BOLD) variance known as

Functional magnetic resonance imaging , (FMRI) that was first used around 1998. Using this

technology researchers have been able to discover the existence and properties of the default

mode network (DMN), which are interacting brain regions known to have activity highly

correlated with each other and distinct from other networks within the brain that are also referred

to as the 'Resting State Network' (RSN), a functionally connected neural network of apparent

'brain states'.
Mirror Neurons are involved with perception if you’re watching me move my fifth digit (pinky

finger) , your brain will perceive you’re flexing your fingers . The same if you are seeing

someone eating something. Your brain will perceive you are also putting something in your

mouth. These cells mirror what you see someone else is doing and in some ways your brain

doesn’t distinguish between whether or not you’re watching someone else you are doing that

action yourself. A study was conducted where, stroke patients were administered a month-long

course in physiotherapy. Half of patients watched able bodied people make simple hand and arm

movements such as eating something. The results provided evidence that actin observation has a

positive impact on a stroke patients recovery in motor function skills, after a person sustains a

stroke, due to reactivation of certain motor areas containing the action observation/action

execution matching system (mirror neuron system, aka MNS) (Ertelt, et al,2007)

Mirror Neuron research has been done not only with stroke patients though. Patients suffering

with Dementia and Alzheimer’s has been another exciting field of research regarding how mirror

neurons operate and what benefits the MNS may have for patients with movement disorders. The

results in one study were remarkable! “Linear mixed model analyses revealed a significant

interaction effect on an attention test, but not on cognitive domains. Additional analyses showed

that a face recognition task improved significantly. (Eggermont LH et al, 2009)


The brain, both anatomically and physiological aspects can be considered the new frontier of

medical science. Though there has been many studied done on the brain dating back over a

century, not until the last 30 or so years has there been so many breakthroughs - understanding

the brain and how it functions. Only after the ability to use various forms of imaging.
Technology such as PET Scans. MRI, Fmri .and even ultrasound technology that recently

became a topic of research for researchers working to help patients with Essential Tremors and

Parkinsonian tremors using Magnetic Resonance Guided focused Ultra Sound (MRGfUS)

(Food and Drug Administration 2016)


Rozzi S., Ferrari P.F., Bonini L., Rizzolatti G., Fogassi L. Functional organization of inferior
parietal lobule convexity in the macaque monkey: electrophysiological characterization
of motor, sensory and mirror responses and their correlation with cytoarchitectonic areas.
Eur. J. Neurosci.
Buckner, R. L.; Andrews-Hanna, J. R.; Schacter, D. L. (2008). "The Brain's Default Network:
Anatomy, Function, and Relevance to Disease". Annals of the New York Academy of
Sciences. 1124 (1): 1–38.

Action observation has a positive impaction rehabilitation of motor deficits after stroke
Ertelt et al. BMC Neurology 2012,
Ertelt et al NeuroImage (Jun2007) Supplement 2, Vol. 36, pT164-T173. 0p.
Eggermont LH et al. (2009) “Observation of hand movements by older persons with dementia:
effects on cognition: a pilot study”
US National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health
FDA approves first MRI-guided focused ultrasound device to treat essential tremor