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Gesture and Language

rmallott at my-dejanews.com rmallott at my-dejanews.com
Fri Jul 3 01:40:08 EST 1998

Recent work of Rizzolatti, Arbib and Gallese at the University of Parma,
the discovery of mirror neurons in the premotor cortex, has suggested
how directly gesture and language could be related in the evolution and
functioning of the brain. See 'Language within our grasp' [Trends in
Neuroscience 1998 May;21(5):188-194 Rizzolatti and Arbib]. "These
neurons (mirror neurons) appear to represent a system that matches
observed events to similar, internally generated actions, and in this
way forms a link between the observer and the actor. Transcranial
magnetic stimulation and positron emission tomography (PET) experiments
suggest that a mirror system for gesture recognition also exists in
humans and includes Broca's area. We propose here that such an
observation/execution matching system provides a necessary bridge
from'doing' to'communicating',as the link between actor and observer
becomes a link between the sender and the receiver of each message".

Movement, including gesture, is imaged in the brain before a movement is
executed; imagined movement stimulates the same neurons as are active in
executing a movement. The mirror neurons respond in a similar way to
perceived external movement (that is, also to perceived gesture). Along
with MRI and PET scanning studies of brain language functions, this work
lends new support to the motor theory of language origin and development
based on the close integration in the brain of motor control, visual
perception and articulation.

For the relation proposed between gesture and language as part of the
motor theory, see the paper 'Gestural Equivalence (Equivalents) of
Language' presented at the Berkeley meeting of the Language Origins


and for direct illustration of the relation between body movement and
language see the animations at


Robin Allott   email: RMAllott at percep.demon.co.uk
               tel/fax: +44 1323 492300

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