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Old 10-07-2008, 11:09 AM   #1
C. David Henderson
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Mirror Neurons and Aikido Training

Take a look, if you will at these articles:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/science.../01-resup.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_neuron

Together, they suggest the mirror neuron system mediates in both (1) complex, learned kinesthetic performances; and (2) in apprehending other human beings as other beings.

Some questions I ask myself when I think about this:

Does this suggest anything about Aikido practice and the nage/uke model as it has developed in Aikido?

Does learning a martial art require interaction because human beings typically need "hands on" training to master a complex kinesthetic performance?

What does this say about the role of Reigi in budo, in terms not simply of Aikido's self-transformative aspirations, but in terms of mastery?

On the other hand, just what, if anything, does this suggest about the transformative ambitions of Aikido? Does it illuminate the resolution of apparent conflict or tension in the relationships between [practice of a martial activity::self-improvement] or [budo::love]?

Don't know any answers.

Please let me know your thoughts.

Regards,

DH
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Old 10-08-2008, 01:27 AM   #2
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Re: Mirror Neurons and Aikido Training

Very interesting material. You'd think that everything from reading lips, to visualizing activity before execution would fire up this sort of system.
Quote:
Does this suggest anything about Aikido practice and the nage/uke model as it has developed in Aikido?
Sure, but do you think any more so, than for everything else a person learns? I would love to see which neurons do fire in the minds of more experienced practitioners. Perhaps most, if not all, people new to aikido can't see the shifting of weight, or often mistake hip rotation for arm movement, because the mirror neuron system simplifies, or can only take so much as to provide some sort of denominator.
Quote:
Does learning a martial art require interaction because human beings typically need "hands on" training to master a complex kinesthetic performance?
I am now reading this question as we need "hands on" training because our mirror systems cannot fully process what is going on kinesthetically. Is that what you meant? If yes, it's easier for me to agree.

After these two questions I must defer to others. Though the concept of "the mirror" as something to continuously polish comes to mind. As a student becomes more familiar with what is happening in front of them, their 'mirror systems' become more familiar and capable of accurately processing what is occurring.

So, their mirrors are in fact becoming more polished with practice.

how bout that?

2:26AM, time to leave work! (temporarily on a 4-12 shift until the end of the week... ugh)

michael.

If way to the better there be, it exacts a full look at the worst.

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Old 10-08-2008, 07:22 AM   #3
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Re: Mirror Neurons and Aikido Training

Love the neuroscience stuff.

IMHO and without any authority, if by mirror neurons we are suggesting vicarious learning leading to possible skill acquisition, there may be some validity provided the observer internally mentally associates with the external model. Neuroplasticity is best affected by voluntary mental rehearsal as if actually doing the task, not just observing it. Well trained athletes use this strategy to see-do.

Thanks again for the resource. I would have to research further.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 10-08-2008, 11:27 AM   #4
C. David Henderson
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Re: Mirror Neurons and Aikido Training

Mike,

I don't know that learning Aikido its different in kind from the examples you list, but Aikido and other martial arts training does seem to exploit this kind of learning in a systematic fashion: consider, for example the ability to "steal technique" as reflecting a training effect on the mirror neurons. And then maybe acquiring this ability is important to the development of the martial artist for reasons other than an inexplicable cultural idiosyncracy...

I glean from the material I cited that mirror neurons get triggered by observing movements you have trained and when perceiving other people. Mirror neurons are important in both learning by mimicry and in acquiring language (ever hear that Aikido is a language, with a grammar?) and problems with this system may be involved in autism.

It shouldn't be surprising that a brain mechanism essential to social interaction (the other person perception) is also essential to learning skills through social interaction. [It also could be a percursor to self recognition, which behavioral scientists have called a behavioral "Rubicon" crossed only by a few other mammal and bird species.]

The practical knowledge we have of complex tasks and the "hunches" we entertain about people's acts or intentions may thus simply be different in KIND than conceptual knowledge, but still a kind of knowing and not a poor cousin to knowledge:

I know how to take ukemi (to the extent I do), in that when I am really taking it I don't think about it. My body knows.

My background understanding about the process of skill learning is that it involves a process of extracting the conscious mind over time from the details of the ongoing performance. This may be the result of, to borrow your wonderful metaphor, "polishing."

My thoughts in terms of Aikido stem from trying to imagine what is happening when two people interact in a martial encounter -- real or stylized.

When I am practicing as uke or nage, my partner's ("stylized") performance may trigger the same type of neurological process that occurs when a dancer observes a movement she has trained, including involvement and firing of mirror neurons. My body knows what my partner is doing literally as though I were doing it. Been there, done that sort of thing.

In this sense I might say I directly experience both the technique and the receiving of the technique during performance of either role. My partner too.

We are interacting, moreover, both "kinesthectically" and through pervasive touch, as when I "feel" his or her center.

Looking at it this way makes me appreciate that there probably exist particular neurological bases that underlie a good deal of the "phenomenology" of martial-arts talk.

You asked: 'I am now reading this question as we need "hands on" training because our mirror systems cannot fully process what is going on kinesthetically. Is that what you meant? If yes, it's easier for me to agree.' Well, I'm not sure; so I'm content to leave your framing as the operative statement for now.

About the polishing metaphor -- I liked this phrase because it "mirrors" the kind of analog thinking behind the label "mirror neurons" to begin with, and then connects that analogy to a classic aphorism associated with Zen and the martial arts. Cool, if you ask me (and you kind of did...).

Lynn,

Thanks for your thoughts. This idea is something else I was speculating about, though I don't think I could have framed it as well:

"if by mirror neurons we are suggesting vicarious learning leading to possible skill acquisition, there may be some validity provided the observer internally mentally associates with the external model. Neuroplasticity is best affected by voluntary mental rehearsal as if actually doing the task, not just observing it. Well trained athletes use this strategy to see-do."

This line of thought also suggests to me mirror neurons may be involved when an athlete or martial artist "rehearses" a performance in her mind, in much the same way we 'subvocalize" when we think about saying something.

Regards,

DH
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Old 10-08-2008, 12:31 PM   #5
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Re: Mirror Neurons and Aikido Training

Quote:
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This line of thought also suggests to me mirror neurons may be involved when an athlete or martial artist "rehearses" a performance in her mind, in much the same way we 'subvocalize" when we think about saying something.
IMHO, and I often misunderstand, from the article is that they were referred to as "mirror" neuron because they reflect an external model. Often from an associated (inside) position this would be more visual and kinaestheic leading to more neuroplasticity. Subvocalization is an auditory track that talks about something therefore would probably be more from the disassociated position. But I would agree that they are similar processes and worthy of our further investigation.

Lynn Seiser PhD
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We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 10-08-2008, 01:14 PM   #6
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Re: Mirror Neurons and Aikido Training

OK. I certainly defer here.
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Old 10-08-2008, 11:06 PM   #7
dps
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Re: Mirror Neurons and Aikido Training

Here are two links about mirror nuerons and visualization.

http://books.google.com/books?id=ujV...um=2&ct=result

and

http://www.mindupdate.com/?p=41

David
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Old 10-09-2008, 08:52 AM   #8
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Re: Mirror Neurons and Aikido Training

I am certainly no expert in the neurosciences, though I find them fascinating.

If we put together the concept of mirror neurons that reflect the observed and memes (thought viruses), we get the idea about how contagious and influential what we observe is.

Perhaps we need to spent more time choosing wisely and paying more attention to what we want instead of wasting so much time and energy on what we already know we don't want and isn't in anyones best interest.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 10-09-2008, 11:00 AM   #9
C. David Henderson
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Re: Mirror Neurons and Aikido Training

Lynn,

I would wager I'm less of an expert, and I wasn't trying to put all the eggs in one nuero-basket. Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge.

On your other observation, it seems a positive inversion of a complaint I've had for several years -- it's easier to get people to agree to be afraid of something than to agree on what it is they want. And, as your thought suggests, a shared fear may be more than the sum of its parts...

DH
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Old 10-09-2008, 12:07 PM   #10
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Re: Mirror Neurons and Aikido Training

David,

Thanks for the additional links. For those who haven't clicked on:http://www.mindupdate.com/?p=41

"Weekly Brain Video: Mirror Neurons

Mirror Neurons are a relatively new discovery, and are being touted by many as one of the most important discoveries in the last decade of neuroscience. There was a lot of media attention on these buggers last year, primarily because of what they indicate fundamentally about human social interaction.

Essentially, Mirror Neurons are built to respond to actions that we observe in others. The interesting part is that mirror neurons fire in the same way when we actually recreate that action ourselves! For example, if you move your arm up and down groups of motor neurons in the brain will fire. But, if you observe someone moving their arm, many of those same neurons will fire in the same way!

Now, if you have read the documentation of our Neuro-Programmer product, you might not be too surprised by this. One of the fundamental concepts behind the program is that neural responses to observed or imagined actions will be similar to the brain activity of actual events, and this is one of primary reasons why creative visualization is so effective. In a sense, mirror neurons have been known about and studied for a very long time. Ask any professional athletic coach about visualization and you'll hear all about it. Ask anyone who feels like they can perform huge feats of kung fu after a Bruce Lee movie. Ask me why I can't bear to watch the particularly embarrassing scenes from The Office.

But, it is great to see analysis going into the exact neurology behind this brain phenomenon. And not only that, but it is giving us valuable insight into brain disorders. Defective Mirror Neurons are now thought to play a role in Autism, since many Autistic individuals often have perfectly functioning brains, but seem to struggle in social situations.

Mirror Neurons are also helping to explain how humans interact, and are showing empathy to be a much more powerful and pronounced neurological process than previously thought. On a related note, in EEG tests mirror neuron responses seem to be stronger in women than in men."

[smilely omitted.]

The second paragraph in particular descrribes the nuerological overlap between seeing another act and acting ourselves.

Regards,

DH
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Old 10-09-2008, 12:27 PM   #11
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Re: Mirror Neurons and Aikido Training

Quote:
David Henderson wrote: View Post
And, as your thought suggests, a shared fear may be more than the sum of its parts...
Did I suggest that?
Wished I did.
Yes, IMHO negativity grows as we place energy into it.
So does the positive, compassion, optimism, acceptance.
Invest your time, energy, and mirror neurons wisely.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 10-09-2008, 01:07 PM   #12
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Re: Mirror Neurons and Aikido Training

... hums to himself, polishing cloth in hand ....

Good suggestion.
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Old 10-09-2008, 01:37 PM   #13
John Brockington
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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.

John
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Old 10-09-2008, 02:10 PM   #14
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Re: Mirror Neurons and Aikido Training

Anyone else into the Mind and Life Conferences that discuss the neurosciences along with the cognitive and meditative sciences sponsored with the Dali Lama? Some interesting stuff on how mental discipline can affect neuroplasticity.

Lynn Seiser PhD
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We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 10-09-2008, 02:13 PM   #15
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Re: Mirror Neurons and Aikido Training

Please say more.
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Old 10-10-2008, 08:13 AM   #16
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Re: Mirror Neurons and Aikido Training

Quote:
David Henderson wrote: View Post
Please say more.
Read/listen to The Universe in a Single Atom and/or Train Your Mind Change Your Brain to wet the taste buds.

I was at the last Emory Conference on Depression and the neurosciences with the Dalai Lama. Subtly profound.

Conscious voluntary mental discipline affect the neuroplasticity and neuropathways for change, neurogenesis perpetuates that change, changing the neuroenvironment facilitating changes in genetic expression or evolution. Modern neuroscience is validating the old mystics. Very exciting and way outside the box.

Had not heard of the mirroring which explains the meme factors of social thought virus contagion. Appreciate yet another piece.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 10-10-2008, 11:28 AM   #17
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Re: Mirror Neurons and Aikido Training

Myself as well. Thanks to you and to John for your posts. I think the existence of adult neurogenesis and its relationship with neuroplasticity is really thought provoking. I think, as an example that immediately comes to mind, it brings into question our perception of personal continuity (even if it exists alongside a perception of change itself).

DH
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Old 10-10-2008, 12:28 PM   #18
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Re: Mirror Neurons and Aikido Training

David-
You are very welcome! As an aside, the concept of neuroplasticity (meaning in this context regulation of gene expression in the brain) in adult animals has been around for a while, and really started to gain serious momentum in the late 90's when animal behavior researchers showed clear evidence of upregulation of genetic expression in songbirds during the mating season, contingent on the specific songs being sung. Basically, the birds' brains were shown change on a structural level depending on the song.
There is some work being done in humans in this area, but one of the principle issues is whether neural "plasticity" is a phenomenon of re-organization of neural networks, or if there is actual change in the cell populations, through gene expression and regulation. It is not a small distinction, and the implications for a host of diseases like stroke, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's, MS, are huge.

John
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Old 10-10-2008, 02:18 PM   #19
Janet Rosen
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Re: Mirror Neurons and Aikido Training

Quote:
John Brockington wrote: View Post
As an aside, the concept of neuroplasticity (meaning in this context regulation of gene expression in the brain) in adult animals has been around for a while....the implications for a host of diseases like stroke, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's, MS, are huge.
Fascinating stuff - I also love reading/learning about research in these fields.
In terms of real world application, it is sobering to those of us who are health care professionals and see how little both private insurance and Medicare cover in terms of rehab. Typical post-stroke rehab is limited to "how to walk" and "how to dress" or "how to talk" and assumes that 1. the person needs to be able to participate actively right away and 2. as soon as they hit their first plateau, which may be a matter of weeks or a couple of months, the rehab process is over and no more will be paid for.

Janet Rosen
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