Yesterday, I had a privillege of hosting a Distingished Lecture at IBM Almaden Research Center by Professor Michael Arbib.
Professor Arbib lectured on “Modeling Mirror Systems on the Evolutionary Path to Language”.
We focus on the evolution of action capabilities which set the stage for the language-ready brain. Our framework is given by the Mirror System Hypothesis which charts a progression from a monkey-like mirror neuron system to a chimpanzee-like mirror system that supports simple imitation and thence to a human-like mirror system that supports complex imitation and language. We present MNS2, a new model of action recognition learning by mirror neurons of the macaque brain and ACQ, a model of opportunistic scheduling of action sequences as background for analysis of modeling strategies for “simple imitation” as seen in the great apes and “complex/goal-directed imitation” as seen in humans. The talk concludes by charting how this work may support models of the human brain’s capacity to process language.
A brief bio:
Michael A. Arbib is the Fletcher Jones Professor of Computer Science, as well as a Professor of Biological Sciences, Biomedical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Southern California, which he joined in September of 1986. He has also been named as one of a small group of University Professors at USC in recognition of his contributions across many disciplines.
Born in England in 1940, Arbib grew up in Australia (with a B.Sc. (Hons.) in Pure Mathematics from Sydney University), and received his Ph.D. in Mathematics from MIT in 1963. After five years at Stanford, he became chairman of the Department of Computer and Information Science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1970, and remained in that Department until his move to USC in 1986.
Arbib has published over 322 scholarly articles and is the author or editor of 38 books. His edited volume, The Handbook of Brain Theory and Neural Networks (The MIT Press, Second Edition, 2003) is a massive compendium embracing studies in detailed neuronal function, system models of brain regions, connectionist models of psychology and linguistics, mathematical and biological studies of learning, and technological applications of artificial neural networks. Most recently, Jean-Marc Fellous and he have edited Who Needs Emotions: The Brain Meets the Robot (Oxford University Press, 2005) while he has edited Action To Language via the Mirror Neuron System (Cambridge University Press, 2006).
He has received several honors: Chancellor’s Medal, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 1982, Gifford Lecturer in Natural Theology, University of Edinburgh, Autumn 1983. Chancellor’s Medal, Syracuse University, March, 1989, Chaire d’Etat reservé des savants Etrangeres, Collège de France, Paris, May-June 1992, Socio Onorio, La Societa di Medicina e Scienze Naturali dell’Universitá di Parma, 1992, Fellow, AAAI, Lockheed Senior Research Award, USC School of Engineering, 1995, IEEE Neural Networks Council Pioneer Award for 1995, The Rouse Ball Lecturer for 2001, Faculty of Mathematics, Cambridge University, and Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa), University of Western Australia, September 14, 2004.