On October 25, 2018, Dr. Giacomo Rizzolatti presented, “The ‘Mirror’ Brain,” the first lecture of 2018-19 fall semester for Gallaudet University’s PhD in Educational Neuroscience (PEN) program Distinguished Lecture Series.

Dr. Rizzolati, the discoverer of mirror neurons, is Professor Emeritus of Human Physiology at University of Parma. He is also affiliated with the Istituto di Neuroscienze, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche – CNR, Parma, Italy; Dipartimento di Neuroscienze, Università di Parma. The main focus of Dr. Rizzolatti’s research concerns the motor system and its role in cognitive functions.

During his presentation at Gallaudet, Dr. Rizzolatti described the functions of the mirror mechanism located in the parieto-frontal network of monkeys and humans. He showed attendees that this mechanism enables one to understand others in an immediate, phenomenological way, without recourse to cognitive inferential processing.

The professor emeritus then discussed the role of the mirror mechanism in understanding basic Darwinian emotions. He focused on disgust, fear and happiness and demonstrated the role of the mirror mechanism in empathic experience of these emotions, contrasting it to their mere cognitive recognition.

The data on emotions led Dr. Rizzolatti to the last part of his talk where he presented stereo-EEG data on action and emotion recognition. Stereo-EEG allows one to go beyond the static three-dimensional maps obtained with fMRI providing a four dimensional picture (space plus time) of brain activations during different types of actions.

View Archived Lecture
All live streamed PEN Distinguished Lecture Series presentations are available to view on Gallaudet University’s Webcast Channel. Additional lectures from 2008 to the present are also archived and available on this channel.

Dr. Rizzolatti (l) and Dr. Petitto (r) are pictured at Gallaudet University where the former presented his lecture, “The ‘Mirror’ Brain” for students and faculty.

During his time on Gallaudet’s campus, Dr. Rizzolatti also spent time with Dr. Petitto and her team learning about research being conducted in Petitto’s Brain and Language Lab for Neuroimaging (BL2).

Dr. Rizzolatti (center, top row) is pictured with faculty and students of the PhD in Educational Neuroscience (PEN) program at Gallaudet University.

Dr. Rizzolatti (center, top row) and Dr. Petitto (third from left, top row) are pictured with faculty and students of the PhD in Educational Neuroscience (PEN) program at Gallaudet University.


About Gallaudet University’s PhD in Educational Neuroscience Program
The PhD in Educational Neuroscience (PEN) program was founded at Gallaudet University by Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto (Chair, PEN Steering Committee), a leading cognitive neuroscientist who first helped create the discipline of Educational Neuroscience (2001, 2004) and built related programs at multiple institutions prior to coming to Gallaudet in 2011. At Gallaudet, Dr. Petitto pioneered the creation of the PEN program, which she built with Dr. Thomas Allen (Program Director, PEN) and Dr. Melissa Herzig (Assistant Program Director, PEN). Dr. Petitto’s hope was to create a top tier advanced graduate program in the Cognitive-Educational Neurosciences at Gallaudet University that would serve as a galvanizing model of the good of science and society for the nation. Gallaudet’s PhD in Educational Neuroscience (PEN) program pioneers the exciting interdisciplinary discipline called Educational Neuroscience, the sister discipline of Cognitive Neuroscience.