Vittorio Gallese: "Embodied simulation: From neurons to bodily selves"

Guest Lecture by Vittorio Gallese, Department of Neuroscience, University of Parma, Italy

“Self” is a complex, multi-layered notion. From a phenomenological perspective, three levels of selfhood have been identified: A pre-reflective ‘minimal’ self, a more explicit awareness of self as an invariant subject of experience and action, and finally a social or narrative self. The concept of minimal, pre-reflective, or “core self” is currently under debate. It is not clear which empirical features such a self is presumed to possess and which kind of experience concurs in shaping it. It will be proposed that beside searching for the neural correlates of a pre-defined, explicit and reflective self-knowledge, empirical research should perhaps first investigate which kind of experience allows (and how) an implicit, pre-reflective self-knowledge to emerge. Empirical evidence shows that the multisensory integration leading to the experience of our body as our own, far from being the outcome of a mere visual–proprioceptive perceptual association, is conditioned by the possibility – or not – to perform actions with a given body part. I will present behavioural and neuroscientific evidence showing the crucial role of the motor system in enabling the distinction between our bodily self and the bodily self of others. The bearing of such implicit distinction for social cognition will be discussed within the framework of Embodied Simulation Theory.

Vittorio Gallese is Professor of Physiology at the Dept. of Neuroscience of the School of Medicine of the University of Parma. His major research interest lies in the relationship between action, perception and cognition, using a variety of neurophysiological and neuroimaging techniques. He is also interested in developing an interdisciplinary approach to the understanding of the embodied bases of intersubjectivity and social cognition.

Time: Wednesday, 30 May 2012, 13.15 to 15.00

Place: Aud. 22.0.11

The lecture is open to all, including students. Welcome!