Re: Mirror Neurons and Aikido Training
To me, the most interesting part of the specific topic of "mirror neurons" and the broader topic of "motor cognition" is the implication of parallel processing. That is, in traditional neurological training (mine was in the early 90's), motor systems and cognitive systems were generally considered as separate entities, admittedly with obvious interdependence and complex feedback systems.
Over the past few years, however, there has been increasing appreciation for the existence of dual roles for many of these systems. For example, Parkinson's disease has traditionally been categorized as a "movement disorder," but as careful neuropsychological studies have started to demonstrate, there is a consistent pattern of cognitive impairment in specific domains, particularly executive function (which comprises insight, motivation, attention, concentration, etc) and visual-spatial abilities. And this sort of makes intuitive sense, when one considers that the underlying motor deficit is one of impaired movement initiation, which fits nicely from a conceptual standpoint into deficits involving tasks requiring initiation/attention (executive impairment) and dealing with movement/space/distance (visual-spatial function). And, of course, at least 1/3 of parkinson's patients become truly demented. In a similar vein, there is increasing appreciation for non-memory deficits in Alzheimer's patients, in everything from senses of taste and smell to sleep cycle disorders, movement initiation problems (like parki's) and so on. If you want to look at something really mind'boggling, look up work that is being done in functional imaging (like fMRI) by people like Adrian Owen in the UK (really cool article published in Archives of Neurology August 2007 on fMRI study looking at supplemental motor cortex activity aka mirror neurons in a brain-injured vegetative patient). And also check out work being done by people looking into cognitive functions of the cerebellum, which pretty much has been considered ONLY a movement regulating part of the brain until recently. Good source is the journal Cerebellum, especially 2007 volume 6.