Giorgio Metta
LIRA-Lab, DIST, University of Genova (Italy)


Mirror neurons: biological insight and robotic implementation


I'll report about the investigation of the neural basis of action understanding. We are taking here a three-pronged approach relying on recent results of neurophysiology, on modeling of human movement, and on the implementation of the model on a robotic setup interacting in a natural environment. Neurophysiology in the monkey has shown that action execution and action observation share a common neural substrate (Gallese, Fadiga, Fogassi, & Rizzolatti, 1996). These results provide a straightforward link between the understanding of actions and imitation. Interestingly, there is no good explanation of the ontogenesis of these responses. For this reason, we are working on computational models both on real data (recorded from humans) and on an autonomous robotic platform (Metta & Fitzpatrick, 2003). We will show how this investigation delves deep into the concept of perception and action in humans and how it can cast new light on our understanding of the link between intelligence and action. Finally, we will speculate on the far reaching implications of these ideas.