You may have arrived here from googling "chickens mirror neurons". If so,
click here for Joke #22, in which someone googles "chickens mirror neurons"
and finds Joke #22.

Otherwise, scroll down a short distance for the real start of this page.

gigieatscelebrities.com is source of image, from Google Images. Click here to see cat-in-a-box (actually a laundry hamper). It is a repeating .GIF video file. Can you tell what the cat is feeling?

Draft: Mirror Neuron Humor

©Copyright 2014 by Ground4Ideas

September 24, 2015

What are mirror neurons? Here's some introductory material.

2015: Wikipedia article
1996: Premotor cortex and the recognition of motor actions original article March 1996, by G. Rizzolatti and others
2008: The Mirror Neuron Revolution: Explaining What Makes Humans Social Scientific American, July 1, 2008
2013: What We Know Currently about Mirror Neurons Current Biology Dec 2, 2013
2014: The Myth of Mirror Neurons by Gregory Hickock
2015: Rethinking the Mirror Neuron System Theory Journal of Vision, September 1, 2015
2015: Premotor cortex pictures (Google/images)
2015: Human mirror neuron pictures (Google/images)

Click here for Contents.

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Part One: The jokes

(Click on the number in front of the joke, to read a comment.)


Two mirror neurons get on an elevator. One says to the other, “Good morning. You’re fine; how am I?”


Mirror neuron #1: “What did one mirror neuron say to the other mirror neuron?”
Mirror neuron #2: “What did one mirror neuron say to the other mirror neuron?”
Mirror neuron #1: “You got it!"
Mirror neuron #2: “You got it!"
Mirror neuron #1: “That’s enough now.”
Mirror neuron #2: “That’s enough now.”
Mirror neuron #1: “I’m an idiot.”
Mirror neuron #2: “That’s what I am; what are you?”


A mirror neuron is out for a walk, and along comes another mirror neuron, with a third mirror neuron on its shoulder.
Mirror neuron #1: “Where’d you get that?”
Mirror neuron #3: “I won it at the farm show.”


Mirror Neurons Anonymous
Mirror neuron #1: “Hi, I’m a mirror neuron and my name is Ho.”
Group: “Hi Ho.”
Mirror neuron #2: “Ha ha. But you don’t have to say you’re a mirror neuron. We’re all mirror neurons here.”
Mirror neuron #1: “Well, OK. Hi-- "
Mirror neuron #2: “You don’t have to say ‘hi’. We know you’re introducing yourself.”
Mirror neuron #1: “But then how can I sell any fish?”


A priest, a nun, and a mirror neuron walk into a restaurant, and sit down at a table.
A waiter comes over.
“What would you like to drink?”
The nun says, “I’ll have a manhattan.”
The waiter calls out, “One manhattan.”
The bartender calls back, “One manhattan.”
The priest says, “I’ll have what she’s having.”
The waiter calls out, “Another manhattan.”
The bartender calls back, “Another manhattan.”
The mirror neuron says, “I’ll have a martin eye.” The two words are spoken separately.
The waiter, mimicking the mirror neuron, calls out, “One martin eye.”
The bartender calls back, “Is that crazy mirror neuron in here again?”


Q: How do you get a one-armed mirror neuron out of a tree?
A: Wave to it.


Q: How many mirror neurons does it take to change a light bulb?
A: No one knows yet. They just stand around watching each other.


Q: How do you get a mirror neuron out of the bathtub?
A: Throw in a bar of Thorazine.


Q: What do you call a mirror neuron without an axon?
A: A really good listener, but don’t send it out to get groceries.


Q: Why did the mirror neuron stare at a can of frozen orange juice for two hours?
A: Because it said, “Concentrate.”


Mirror neuron #1: “What’s the sound of one mirror neuron mimicking itself?”
Mirror neuron #2: “I don’t know, but if you keep doing that you’ll go blind.”
Mirror neuron #1: “I’ll stop when I need glasses.”


Q: If a mirror neuron mimics alone in the woods, does it make appreciation?
A#1: Mimics what?
A#2: Does a mirror neuron mimic in the woods?


Q: Why does the mirror neuron criticize the joke it just told?
A: Because it isn’t sure if it's its.


Alice: What’s the difference between a dead snake and a dead mirror neuron on the road?
Bob: I don’t know. What’s the difference?
Alice: There’s two of one, and one of the other.
Bob: But which one?
Alice: How do I know? I’m a mirror neuron specialist, not a snake specialist.


Spiritual advice: If you meet a mirror neuron on the road, ask it to kill you.


Rear bumper sticker on mirror neuron’s car: “If you know what I’m feeling, I was here first!”


Q: How can you tell if a mirror neuron is lying?
A: Think about it.


Q: What’s the difference between God and a mirror neuron?
A: One inspired Romans 9:14-23, and the other is a frustrated potter.


Q: What do you get when you cross a mirror neuron with another mirror neuron?
A: A crazy mixed up Druid.


Two mirror neurons are sitting back to back, in a bathtub.
Mirror neuron #1: “Please pass the soap.”
Mirror neuron #2: “No soap. Rizzolatti!"
Mirror neuron #1: “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Mirror neuron #2: “Here’s a clue. I could have said ‘no soap radio’, but that would be different.”
Mirror neuron #1: “What’s the difference between a radio and a Rizzolatti?”
Mirror neuron #2: “One provides information of general interest, and the other one wakes you up every morning.”
Mirror neuron #1: “I have the feeling I’m being set up. Are you pulling my leg?”
Mirror neuron #2: “You’ve gotta be kidding. Mirror neurons don’t have legs.”
Mirror neuron #1: “Well, they don’t sit in a bathtub, either.”
Mirror neuron #2: “OK, you win. Here’s the soap.”


Two mirror neurons are on a train which is going past a farm. The field is full of sheep.
Mirror neuron #1: “Wow, that’s a lot of sheep.”
Mirror neuron #2: “There are – wait – 173 sheep in that field.”
Mirror neuron #1: “That’s amazing. How did you do that so quickly?”
Mirror neuron #2: “Easy. I counted their legs and divided by four.”
Mirror neuron #1: “But, wouldn’t that take a lot longer than just counting the sheep themselves? And how can you see all their legs?”
Mirror neuron #2: “Naaah, it’s just that I’ve waited a long time for a chance to use that joke. I had no idea how many sheep there were. But I really had you going, didn’t I!”
Mirror neuron #1: “Ha ha, I was the one that had you going. Of course I knew you were kidding.”
Mirror neuron #2: “Can’t stand to have someone fool you, can you.”
Mirror neuron #1: “There’s no need to be critical. You’re the one who can’t take it, not me.”
Mirror neuron #2: “There’s no point in denying what I said. I’m a mirror neuron. I can tell what you’re thinking.”
Mirror neuron #1: “Think you’re smarter than me? I can tell what you’re thinking, too; and you’re the one who’s on the defensive, not me.”
Mirror neuron #2: “How can we be arguing about this? We both know what the other one is thinking.”
Mirror neuron #1: “Good question. But I can tell it’s not sincere.”
Mirror neuron #2: “Dammit, you’re full of beans. I know you’re lying.”
Mirror neuron #1: “On the contrary.”
Mirror neuron #2: “How can we settle this? This is an impossible situation!”
Mirror neuron #1: “Indeed it is.”


A farmer hears a noise in the hen house. He gets his shotgun and walks over quietly. He calls out, “All right, what’s going on in there?”
A voice responds, “No one in here but us mirror neurons, boss.”
The farmer replies, “You mean chickens have mirror neurons?”
The voice answers, “They sure do, boss.”
The farmer pulls out his cell phone and taps in a number. “Hello, Alice, this is Bob. There was a noise in the hen house, and I think someone’s trying to steal my chickens. But when I investigated, a voice said it was mirror neurons. Alice, do chickens have mirror neurons?”
Alice says, “That’s an interesting question, Bob, but let’s back up a little. First of all, chickens can’t talk. Second, the whole subject of mirror neurons is controversial.”
Bob says, “Alice, that may be, but I can’t get the question out of my mind. Do chickens have mirror neurons?”
Alice says, “Just a minute, I’m online. I’ll google that.... chickens mirror neurons.... Bob, all I’m getting is this joke.”
Bob says, “Well, it’s not very funny.”
Alice says, “We’re on the same plate there. Must be our mirror neurons! Ha ha!”
Bob says, “Alice, that’s just totally lame. There’s nothing funny about mirror neurons.”
Alice says, “Whatever. Goodnight, Bob.”
Bob says, “Goodnight, Alice.” They disconnect.
The voice says, “Goodnight, boss.”
Bob stands perfectly still.
The voice says, “By the way, boss, I’m sure you don’t mind my saying this, I think your lady friend had a bit of a fourth wall problem there, when she mentioned this joke.”
Bob says, “What do you mean?”
The voice says, "It’s like if an actor’s character refers to the play, or a story refers to itself. She’s part of the narrative, and she refers to it. But it’s not a big deal.”
Bob says, “Hmmm, that sounds like something a mirror neuron would notice, all right.”
The voice says, “I guess so, boss. I’m not an expert on mirror neurons. I’m just speaking from my nucleus."
Bob looks up at the sky for a moment, turns around, and walks back toward the house.
But he’s thinking, “Wait a minute. How did that mirror neuron know what Alice was saying on my cell phone? She wasn’t on speaker. And— It did the same thing she did!”
Behind him, in the hen house, a chicken screams.


Q: If 6-1/2 mirror neurons can mimic 6-1/2 mirror neurons in 6-1/2 minutes, how many mirror neurons does it take to mimic 10 mirror neurons in 20 minutes?
A: (I don’t have time to figure this out. The solution is left as an exercise for the reader. Sorry.)


Mirror neuron #1: “Why did the mirror neuron cross the Möbius strip?”
Mirror neuron #2: “To get to the same side?”
Mirror neuron #1: “Aha, you thought this was another chicken joke, didn’t you!”
Mirror neuron #2: “Actually, I didn’t think the chicken story was funny.”
Mirror neuron #1: “It doesn’t matter what you think. Your sense of humor is impaired.”
Mirror neuron #2: “You’re a fine one to talk. You have the sense of humor of a collar button.”
Mirror neuron #1: “This is like our train ride yesterday, when we saw the sheep. What’s wrong with you anyway?"
Mirror neuron #2: “What— ?? You think I should go to MNA, don’t you.”
Mirror neuron #1: “I didn’t say that.”
Mirror neuron #2: “But I know what you’re thinking.”
Mirror neuron #1: “Well, thanks for admitting it.”
Mirror neuron #2: “You’re welcome.”


A: Knock knock.
B: Who’s there?
A: Isamirrorneuron.
B: Isamirrorneuron who?
A: Is a mirror neuron necessary in an empath?
B: That’s esoteric.
A: Is a teric necessary on a bike?
B: No, that’s "Is a bell necessary on a bike?”
A: Isabel who?

Part Two: Disclaimer

Click here for Contents.

Click here for Wikipedia article on jokes.



A. Portrayal of mirror neurons
B. Originality of the jokes

A. Whatever impression you have of mirror neurons as a result of these attempts at humor, it's not my intention to educate; only to evoke curiosity (I mean, aside from wanting to write jokes). In fact, it wasn't clear to me just what I was doing. I just wrote one after the other. I was on a roll. Then I got curious, and read some articles in the scholarly and popular press, and compiled some lists. I can't even remember what got me started. I think it was an article in Science. So, if you want balanced information on mirror neurons, refer to other material here. This wab page is an exercise in rambling. At this point it's mainly a place where I can quickly find things I want to show my friends. (And people who need to be enlightened. (j/k) ("j/k" = "just kidding."))

B. The jokes are not all original. Some are based on canonical humor. In some cases, I think my version works better with “mirror neuron” than the original; #1, for example, which is based on a psychiatrist joke, or #2, which is based on a moron joke. “Moron” is politically incorrect, and obsolete as a psychological term.

I want “mirror neuron” to be a meme. (Note: “Meme” is not a meme. But it’s getting there; I see that word more and more nowadays.) Why do I want "mirror neuron" to be a meme? Because I believe that understanding mirror neurons can be a giant step toward world peace. But don’t bother thinking about that while you’re reading the jokes. Memes work better (IMO) when they’re spontaneous. (“IMO” is a meme, IMO.)

Part Three: Comments on the jokes

(These comments need some editing.   )-:

Click here for Contents.

Comments on the jokes. But first, two more jokes, by my cousin, John:


Two mirror neurons walk into a bar and go over to the bartender. Pointing at each other, they both say, “I’ll have what it’s having.”


Did you hear the one about the two mirror neurons that were having a heated argument, then agreed to disagree?

#27 is really subtle. For ordinary humans, the phrase works. “Let’s agree to disagree” was a favorite saying of John’s. He used it whenever we had a disagreement and he was wrong. (j/k) ("j/k" = "just kidding.")

Many of 1-25 are based on other (“canonical”) jokes, whose authors are unknown to me. The Copyright office says there’s a database but you have to provide title and date to find author, and I don’t know those either. I looked for a web page with canonical mirror neuron jokes, and didn’t find one. I guess I could start one at ground4ideas.com. Anyway, in my copyright application I noted exceptions, where I modified existing jokes. NOTE: Someone said some of these are not jokes; they're too long. That's OK with me. The title is "mirror neuron humor." So they're humors. Whatever.

What are mirror neurons? Some researchers believe (not meant skeptically) that certain parts of the brain, in some animals, have a function of mimicking, or simulating, the (objective) actions of other animals, or producing (subjective) experiences like the ones the other entities are having. Studies in non-human animals can be done with individual neurons; human studies, by non-invasive imaging. Sometimes the mirror neuron activity can be seen as collective (many neurons), sometimes individual. Some researchers believe that mirror neuron activity allows us to understand one another, or to be empathetic.

This area of study is several decades old, but “mirror neuron” is relatively recent (1996). My jokes anthropomorphize mirror neurons and play with some of the ideas about them.

I need to say that Stephan Pastis is, IMO, the Anthropomorphizer in Chief of cartoon art. I read his daily strip, Pearls Before Swine, in color in the Washington DC Express, religiously. He has outstanding puns, fourth wall violations, talking critters of all sorts, and a deeply witty, self-deprecating sense of humor. On 6 Oct 2012, I sat near his book signing table for two hours, as the line of fans went by, after his presentation in Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington DC, where they had, in the opinon of the staff, the biggest crowd ever. The signing line went way out into the parking lot. I enjoyed his interactions with fans, and when the line got down to three people, I stood at the end and waited for my turn to thank him.  



For some articles on mirror neurons (co-)authored by Dr. Rizzolatti, a pioneer in the field, see the PubMed ID numbers in comment 20, below, and more PMID numbers in a list of several hundred (below, Jump up ^ Rizzolatti G, Fabbri-Destro M (2010). "Mirror neurons: from discovery to autism". Exp Brain Res 200 (3–4): 223–37. doi:10.1007/s00221-009-2002-3. PMID 19760408 ). These of course include some contrary views. For some more contrary views, in the non-PM-indexed literature, see Part Six.


Now for some brief remarks on the jokes. Note: The jokes were written all at once. There is sort of a train of thought in places.


1. “….get on an elevator” Based on “Two psychiatrists get on an elevator…”

2. “What did one ___ say to the other” Based on old riddle, “What did one moron say…”. At one point I thought I might use “mirron” instead of “mirror neuron,” but that might suggest “moron,” which is disrespectful. In the ending, the obnoxiously mimicking mirror neuron attempts to use a childish retort (often heard on Paul Reubens’ television show, Pee Wee’s Playhouse), “I know you are, but what am I?” but ends up dissing itself anyway, as intended by the first mirror neuron.

3. Based on (dissed stereotype) encountering another one, with a pig on his shoulder. The pig answers the question, “Where’d you get that?” Mirror neurons replace dissed stereotypes in several of these jokes; as objects of humor, it’s the idea of their extreme or unexpected (although characteristic) behavior more than their ethnicity or gender, that’s focused upon. I’m just making this observation. It wasn’t my intention to provide “cleaned up” versions of dissed-stereotype jokes (although I have done that... There was this New Year's Eve party about 30 years ago....[1])

4. Front of joke (the MNA scene): I got “Hi Ho” from someone else, around 1980. So far as I know, it’s never actually been used…. The ending refers to another joke, where someone puts a sign up, “Fresh fish for sale here today,” and another person progressively criticizes and edits the sign down to less and less words until there are none left.

5. Based on joke about a teacher-nun, accompanying her student to a restaurant with the student’s parents, pretending she’s unfamiliar with drink names. Punchline to that one is, “Is that crazy nun in here again?” If that's offensive to any nuns, or people of any religious persuasion, I apologize. Dave Tiffany told me the nun joke in 1962, during supper at Maynard’s Greek Restaurant in Carlisle, PA. We were eating fried oysters. (I know that because we always had them for supper. They were a terrific bargain, at a dollar a dozen.)

6. Original joke was about a one-armed, dissed, dim-wit-stereotyped person. A mirror neuron could be expected to act this way (automatically waving back at someone), as part of its mimicking nature (speaking metaphorically and anthropomorphically, of course.)

7. “How many” light bulb joke genre.

8. Variation on generic “throw in a bar of soap” joke, how to get a (maligned stereotyped person) out of a bathtub.

9. Based on “What’s the difference between (a particular grocery item and a non-grocery item)?” (Listener doesn’t know.) “I’ll never send you out to get groceries.” Start of joke uses the idea that without an axon, the “output” part of a neuron, it wouldn’t be able to “do” anything (like shop for groceries), except listen.

10. Based on dissed stereotype joke about a dim-witted, compulsive person. Mirror neurons aren’t dim-witted or compulsive; it’s in their nature to focus on (whatever); but this could be overdone. (I admit I’m stretching things, with “it’s in their nature…” As I said, I’m anthropomorphizing them.)

11. Based on Zen koan, about the sound of one hand clapping, plus a popular joke about what used to be called “self-abuse” (another derivative of which was in the movie, Avatar, where Sigourney Weaver’s character admonishes a newly produced avatar, not to get carried away stroking his tail, or he’ll go blind. (His tail can be used as a communication link with all life on the planet.) Although this bordered on a fourth wall problem, I loved the gag, and was disappointed that the avatar didn't reply that he would stop when he needed glasses. I'm sure the script writer thought it would be going too far[3] into a fourth wall violation, to make the movie a vehicle for a joke at that point.))

12. Another Zen koan about a tree falling in a forest, then a reference to a popular rhetorical question about a bear in the woods. I have to mention Stephan Pastis' Pearls Before Swine strip ((C) Stephan Pastis, 2014) for May 20, 2014. Pastis, Anthropomorphizer Extraordinaire, and Master of Fourth Wall Humor, has Goat asking Rat, "Do you think comic strip censorship is more strict than the censorship you see in other forms of mass entertainment?" Rat replies, "Does a bear sit in the woods?" Upon which two comic strip censors, attired in bow ties and top hats, intervene: "Curse you, tricky rat," and "No more talk about bears in the woods." Rat runs afoul of a censor, in a superhero costume, in another recent strip (May 9, 2014), where he's writing advertisements, and with Pig March 28, 2014, making Greek yogurt. Pastis himself is confronted by a censor, March 18, 2014, for making an off-color pun. More fourth wall humor, Pastis about to be chastised, for a more elaborate pun, April 6, 2014. BTW Here's Rat's take on empathy, April 28, 2014. Rat apparently has a mirror neuron deficiency.

13. Based on dissed stereotype joke about questionable parentage. The original joke is so offensive to me that I almost didn’t keep this variation, but it doesn’t need a reference to another joke, to be funny. I’m just giving credit. Actually, after mulling over how these came about, and realizing that they more or less just emerged from me without thinking, I realized that in the case of #13, the joke’s on me.

14. Based on genre joke about “dead (dissed stereotype)” in the road, and ending with reference to the joke where a pet shop owner gives advice on how to distinguish male from female finches- They prefer male and female worms. The customer asks how to tell male from female worms. “I’m a bird expert, not a worm expert.” (Actually, earthworms are hermaphrodites.)

15. Based on the saying, "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him,” meaning the Buddha is not outside, but inside one. Truth comes from inside, not outside. Something like that. This derivation (Joke #15) is so convoluted I don’t want to attempt an explanation. It just sounds right to me.

16. Based on a generic bumper sticker joke.

17. Based on the joke about how to tell if a (dissed person) is lying- Read their lips: if they’re moving, the person is lying. In this case, “think about it” suggests that the questioner is being mimicked, and therefore might be the one who is lying. So the answer to “how do you tell” is, “what are *you* doing?” Another possibility: A m.n. only mimics; it doesn’t have originality. So no matter what it’s doing, it is not lying. This however suggests that the person it is mimicking is not lying, either, which is unrealistic. So the issue is, do mirror neurons mimic meaning or just motions? Where is the empathy? Are we getting into the issue of the so-called hard problem of consciousness? ENOUGH.

18. Another “what’s the difference joke”, of the type that reverses the expectation at the end. The listener, hearing that A is X, and B is Y, realizes they would have expected to hear that A is Y and B is X. In this case, I’m suggesting that mirror neuron activity produced the characterization of God in Romans 9:14-23, and that the potter is God (to which He’s compared, in Romans 9:14-23.) (Note: That passage refers to God manipulating the Pharaoh in Exodus 4:21, 7:3, 7:13, 9:12, 10:1, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10, 14:4, 14:8, and 14:17, so it’s not as hypothetical or obscure as it appears. (Further note: The context of this part of Paul has to do with who is welcome in the new way (later called Christianity) of practicing Judaism; some gentiles are, and some Jews aren’t. It’s up to God. But the passage directly addresses the issue of what right someone has to force someone to do something, and then blame them for doing it. The joke (if there’s anything left of it at this point) focuses on that aspect of this passage. Is getting someone to mimic, a type of manipulation? Can people be manipulated into being empathetic? Further, if God makes someone do something bad and a question is raised as to their culpability, then on the other hand, if he makes someone glorify him, of what value is the glory? I'm not sure if this is a parallel question or not. Is it? But it emerges. If I feel someone isn't being compassionate enough with me, do I have a right to exercise, in some covert way, their mirror neurons? We do something like this with children. "Johnny, how would you feel if Betty broke your toy?" What if Johnny then were racked with guilt, on the spot or 50 years later? With that risk in mind, are we obligated to gauge the impact or force of our inducements to be compassionate? Or is compassion self-limiting? Could we educate someone to make it self-limiting? Is this like asking, could we educate someone to be insightful? At what age would that be a good idea to do? Can one be too insightful? Some further questions to mull over. OK, now say, “Ha ha.”

19. This joke is dedicated to Bill H. The genre is “what happens when you cross A with B,” and the ending is “a crazy mixed up ____ (rhymes with 'kid')". In this case there’s a spiritual dimension (I believe that mirror neurons play a role in spirituality (see #18)) so I picked a spiritual entity that rhymes with “kid”. OK, it’s a stretch.

(What's the connection with Bill H.? He leads a book discussion group on spirituality, and frequently admonishes us to be respectful and careful in our critical remarks, by saying, "You never know, there might be someone in here that's a Druid.")

20. Based on an old (at least 55 years (Footnote 8)) "prank joke,” actually a fake joke, with a non sequitur punch line, “No soap radio.” The idea is that someone laughs because they don’t want to be thought clueless. Then a confederate, who is in on the trick, pretends to be puzzled, and puts the person on the spot by asking what is funny.
[Not a nice thing to do.]
OK, so, what does "Rizzolatti" mean? Giacomo Rizzolatti was the senior scientist of the research team that pioneered work on mirror neurons. Rizzolatti once wrote that, early in his research (in 1991), the prestigious British journal, Nature, declined to publish a paper from him because of its “lack of general interest.”(Footnote (not done yet)) That gave me the idea for a switcheroo sub-joke (“and the other one wakes you up every morning”).
(5-31-15): I was explaining the idea of a prank joke to my friend, Cassandra, using "no soap radio," and she said it was funny, to her, because (and she gave a funny interpretation). "That's OK," I said, "and that actually is funny, but the way it's supposed to work, is the other person laughs but doesn't really see any humor in it." "Oh," she replied, "Then I didn't get it." Which I think is very funny!

21. Based on the “counted their legs and divided by four” joke.

22. Based on the “nobody in here but us chickens, boss” joke. About the part where Alice is googling “chickens mirror neurons”-- Actually, since posting this, I found that when I google "chickens mirror neurons" I DO get this joke! “Chickens can’t talk”— it would have been more appropriate to have Alice say, “Neurons can’t talk,” but “chicken” is funnier than “neuron.” (Footnote 9)Ending-- “… a chicken screams.” I don’t think chickens can scream any more than they can talk. I could have said “squawks” but “screams” is more sinister.

“Fourth wall: see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_wall . Quotation from that:

The fourth wall is the imaginary "wall" at the front of the stage in a traditional three-walled box set in a proscenium theatre, through which the audience sees the action in the world of the play.[1][2] The idea of the fourth wall was made explicit by philosopher and critic Denis Diderot and spread in 19th-century theatre with the advent of theatrical realism,[3] which extended the idea to the imaginary boundary between any fictional work and its audience.”

Fourth wall sometimes refers to a stylistic flaw which spoils the experience of a production. Imagine a character in a play suddenly addressing the audience: “I hope y’all are enjoying this play!” ACK.

(I imagine this is one of the reasons it's difficult to discuss one's relationship with another person. It would be a fourth wall violation.)

(Possibly also one of the reasons why it's hard to discuss one's relationship to God. Or to accept when God forces that on us, as in Job, Revelation, Romans 9, or instances of prophecy and sermonizing. Perhaps one of the reasons why Pharaoh had a hard time talking with Moses' discussions of letting his people leave Egypt. I mean, aside from the sudden loss of all those slaves. Another reason it was hard was that God had hardened his heart (according to plan; not a translation issue (See Romans 9:14-23).)
Imagine God about to confront Job, thinking, "After all this trouble, Job is still resolutely loyal. These three friends of his have him all stirred up, wondering why he's been suffering so much. I mean, he shouldn't think he deserves the good fortune he's lost, but on the other hand, he doesn't deserve what's happened to him, either. Time to set him straight- Get rid of those conundra floating around in his psyche. But this is going to be a fourth wall violation. Well, better make the most of it. By the time I'm finished with him, he won't be wondering about anything!"

You see the comparison there, with a character in a play suddenly addressing the audience: “I hope y’all are enjoying this play!”?

You don't? Well.... OK.

What does this all have to do with mirror neurons?

[Insert or make a footnote, this comment about Romans 9:19- "What about this, you, the reader, may ask?" (paraphrased) This, portraying the reader's possible perception of the discussion, jumps out at us (me)(the reader). I thought perhaps it was inserted as an afterthought, but not entirely; the writer (the writer of Romans 9, presumably Paul) goes on to patch this back into the discussion, of who gets in and who doesn't. So I'm counting this as a 4th wall example. . . . It could have been worded more like, "One might ask, how can God punish someone He forces to do wrong," in which case it wouldn't have seemed (IMO) so 4th wall-ish. The stylistic switching of gears intrigues me. Did Paul (or the writer of Romans 9) (or the person who patched in 14-23) anticipate this objection from readers, and, even though it's a side-track, decided to deal with it? It really could have been left out, and the discussion would have kept on track better (IMO).

End of sidetrack / footnote / (sorry for the confusion).)

Well, hmmm, let's see.... I asked, "What does this all have to do with mirror neurons?" Aha, yes, it's an issue of God having, or not having, compassion.

The lack of compassion evident in Job, or in Romans 9:14-23 ("I make people for vessels of wrath or mercy; does a pot complain to a potter? You humans have your toy soldiers and your World of Warcraft; I have my toy humans, and my world of warcraft." (I'm paraphrasing slightly.) In these two passages (Job being considered as a large passage), God's lack of mirror neurons is total. Consider also His predictions (not prophecies) for humans whose cities reject the messages of the apostles:

Mark 6:11: ".... Truly I say to you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city." (KJV; not in modern Bibles. When and why was that edited out of the KJV? I dunno.)

Matthew 10:14,15: ".... shake the dust off your feet." 15 "Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city...." 11:21 "Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes." 22 "But I say to you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you." 23 "And you, Capernaum, which are exalted to heaven, shall be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in you, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day." 24 "But I say to you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you."

Luke 10:11: "Even the very dust of your city, which sticks on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be you sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come near to you." 12 "But I say to you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city." 13 "Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes." 14 "But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you." 15 "And you, Capernaum, which are exalted to heaven, shall be thrust down to hell."

Those pronouncements are in the context of a campaign to spread a message of peace and love! But wait -- Matthew 10:34 "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." But on the other hand, Matthew 26:52 "Then said Jesus unto him.... all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." OK; I know; context....

I said "not just prophecies", about Jesus' telling the disciples that those who reject them are in deep trouble, because apparently the predictions are not warnings addressed to those cities; although of course the disciples probably had leeway to make comments, to the rejecting city dwellers, about the consequences of not taking them seriously, in which case we would have a prophecy -- something that could be reversed, by the city dwellers thus admonished, who could then repent, as happened with Jonah.) That is my understanding of "prophecy" -- It might not happen. It's a warning. (I've read many contrary views, on the Web. Click here, for example. Even stronger is this, which says, "Prophets had to be right every time, on pain of death (Deut. 18:20) Predictions don’t always come true." I'll google one more-- Aha! This one agrees with me, so it must be right (j/k):

". . . one crucial point about the nature of biblical "prophecy," namely, that even when prophets speak about the future, they are not predicting an inevitable, unalterable future! Rather, they are warning people about a possible future that might come upon them if they continue in their evil ways and do not turn back to God. But if the people do listen to the prophet's message and react appropriately, with prayer, repentance, and faithfulness to God, then the future will look very different than what the prophet had foretold!"

"Of course, not all biblical texts make the conditional nature of the future so explicit; the two alternatives ("If you don't repent, here's what will happen; but if you do repent, then God will be merciful to you.") are not always clearly stated, but might remain implicit. Some texts may even presuppose that people will not repent, and thus will be punished for their wickedness; but if they do, even contrary to all expectations, then the disasters foretold by the prophets will not come about after all!"


Let's see, where was I? Oh yes; compassion. I'm going to stop here (to be edited later.... Add- Eric Erikson, and ideas about God's many roles as a father. Possibly expand on my conjecture that Job is a satirical tirade against theodicy as such.)

More thoughts on Romans 9- Wrath and mercy- Why does God need vessels? I'm struggling with this. I should answer the phone. Where does it start? God needs vessels for wrath, which is directed at someone. Not just a rock. He isn't just kicking rocks, or slamming his hand on the table, or receive the wrath. But(2) why do they have to experience it? Appreciate it? Worry about it, and so on? Or mercy- the person, the toy person, has to expect the wrath, then see it isn't coming, and experience the mercy. It seems that "vessel" means "experience." God has to create experiences of wrath and mercy. Why? Does that augment their reality? Does a person's experiencing mercy, make it more real in some way? Does it add another dimension to it? Does it -- so to speak -- activate God's mirror neurons? Does it make compassion possible? Does compassion imply that the object of compassion be aware that someone is having the compassion? I'm stuck in this.....

It seems like a tautology of some kind. Something that has internal necessity, but not external. Compassion / mercy / suspension of wrath / object of wrath / experiencing all this -- the whole ball of wax -- what if it weren't happening? What would be missing?

Voltaire said, if God didn't exist, man would invent him. Drama. Projection. Enough. I have to answer the phone. Whoops, it isn't ringing any more.

I get put off by some 4th wall situations. For example, in the British Doctor Who series, the actor, and his costume, change from time to time (in the story, the Doctor is getting rejuvenated into a new body.) The idea of the “doctor” is that Doctor Who is a Time Lord who gads about the universe in a time/space machine. To blend in with the societies he visits, when someone asks about his presence, he says, “I’m the doctor.” People presumably don’t question the presence of a doctor in almost any situation. But someone might ask, “Doctor who?” Actually, after watching dozens of episodes, I never saw that happen. But the title is whimsical. Anyway, for some time in the series, his costume included lapels with a question mark on them. One of the incarnations of Doctor Who, in which his costume included question marks on his lapels; a fourth wall issue. This was too much for me, and I stopped watching the shows. On the other hand, there are positive uses of fourth wall awareness. In The Purple Rose of Cairo, an actor leaves the movie screen and steps into the theater, eventually falling in love with a fan, and having problems encountering the actor who plays him (the movie screen character). This leads to hilarious situations, including one in which the other characters in the movie start complaining about him not being there.

In Salvador Dali’s paintings, he used what he called the “paranoic-critical method” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paranoiac-critical_method). One explanation of this (which is not in the Wikipedia article) is that Dali wished the viewer to experience, not only the art object, but also his or her (the viewer’s) own frame of mind, and experiences, in relation to the art object. This is a fourth wall situation, with a positive aim. Now, some comments about Natalie Dessay, which started as part of the fourth wall issue, and morphed into something else.... [Sorry; I don't have this linked here. Use CTRL+F with "Natalie Dessay."

PART NINE Contrary views

Talking Brains: What Mirror Neurons are Really Doing


(Click here for tips on controlling YouTube videos.)

In the opera, Orpheus in the Underworld, by Offenbach, Eurydice is singing about her lover, a shepherd, and addresses the audience pointedly a couple of times. In the YouTube fragment presented here, at 42sec and 1min47sec, she asks a question, then says, "do you ask? Do you?" Here are the still-shots, as links, in the context of the song:

"The woman with a dream in her heart cannot sleep; every day she rises with the sun. At morning, the flowers which line the meadows are more beautiful. 'But for whom these flowers?' You ask. Do you?" (At this point she unbuttons her shirt and opens it for a moment- Her dress is covered with floral prints.) ".... they are for the handsome shepherd who lives just here...."

"Every day like this I bring the lovely shepherd beautiful cornflowers, which I tremblingly hang on his door. And my poor heart throbs and races. So for whom does it beat so fast? You ask. Do you? .... It's for the handsome shepherd who lives just here...." Actually, during this whole song, she is addressing the audience, but in an abstract way. With "Do you?" it gets pointed and (punctures?) (highlights?) the 4th wall. But perhaps I'm going too far with this. The Wikipedia article points out, "The fourth wall should not be confused with the aside or the soliloquy, dramatic devices often used by playwrights where the character on stage is delivering an inner monologue, giving the audience insight into their thoughts."

This whole song, and other singing in the opera, by Dessay, show quick and fluid changes of a range of emotion so charmingly that I think it's great "exercise" of mirror neurons. She is one of the most entertaining people I've ever watched. (Granted, the overall effect is comedy; but the emotions and body language portrayed, moment by moment, are realistic. OK, there's only a vague mirror neuron connection here and I'm making up reasons not to delete the links. But it's my web page. (Actually, this site is about humor, too. LOLoS (lauging out loud or silently).) OK, back to the 4th wall issue; obvious acting and even singing -- She's singing TO us and AT us, after all, not just portraying a singer -- OK, 4th wall, more excuses. It's my web page.) Here are some other examples from Orpheus:

(Click here for tips on controlling YouTube videos.)

Natalie Dessay- Makes me laugh hard in Orpheus. Unfortunately she is about to retire from her operatic career (late 2013). I got a ticket to see her March 12! Carnegie Hall.... She was wonderful Possibly one of the last performances of her opera career. Possibly one of the nicest evenings of my life, and I got to go with a friend. Here'a an interview with her at YouTube. T=1:16:30. Another YouTube, where she shows great changes of expression at 1:55:20-43.

And then for perfect beauty, two performances of The Bell Song, one in a studio, then in a concert hall. Her high notes are electrifying/mesmerizing at 1:18, 5:36 and 8:12. 5:10-5:40 is amazing. And 7:10-8:23. Well,the whole thing. Beauty.

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Here's a review: Natalie Dessay and Imogene Coca: Clowns with Soul, by Rebecca Paller, May 5, 2008:

"Laurent Pelly's production of Donizetti's most light-hearted work (updated from 1800 to World War I, and bursting with sight gags), which I had seen in London last January with the same leading players: Natalie Dessay, Juan Diego Flórez, Felicity Palmer, and Alessandro Corbelli.

"I want to sing the praises of Natalie Dessay, the petite soprano from Lyons, France, whose innate sense of comedy is about as good as it gets. She has the rubber face of a clown-funny with an underlying poignancy-and the loose-limbed movements of the great silent film comedians. A few years ago she told Opera News that her favorite TV show was Inside the Actors Studio, and that she especially loved an episode of the show with Johnny Depp. "I love this guy. Because he's crazy. He's crazy in his choices, without any compromise. It's always a surprise. You don't know what he's going to do," she said.

In La Fille du Régiment (The Daughter of the Regiment) Dessay as Marie, the "daughter" who has been raised since infancy by a regiment of devoted soldiers, is also full of crazy surprises-whether she's demonically ironing and identically double-folding each soldier's Henley shirt in "Mon régiment" or metronomically looking from left to right (Pippi Longstocking pigtails flying helter skelter) after being reunited with her boyfriend Tonio (Flórez) and her adopted father Supice (Corbelli) in the infectious second-act trio, "Tous les trois réunis."

"Dessay on the big screen brings to mind the late, great Imogene Coca—Sid Caesar's longtime partner on the fifties television program Your Show of Shows. Take a look at the YouTube clips below (Coca and Caesar in a sketch lampooning classical musicians, and Dessay in highlights from the London production of La Fille du Régiment) and you'll see what I mean. Both, not surprisingly, studied ballet as kids and were theater animals from the word "go." The humor and humanity shine through in everything they do."

Back to the 4th wall idea-- Near the end of a performance of the "Bell Song" the audience applauds at the wrong moment (5min 29sec into that fragment). She smiles and gestures, letting them know they should stop. OK, here are some more excerpts from Orpheus:

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"La femme dont le coeur rêve" singing about her lover, the shepherd (who is actually Pluto) (same URL as "whole song" above). 2min 33sec long

"Duet Orphée/Eurydice" continuation of shepherd issue: confrontation with husband

"Ah! Quelle triste destinée!" lamenting her abandonment and confinement by Pluto (priceless, noticing a can on the couch, tossing it onto the floor, and then kicking it a minute later; bouncing on couch while singing) 2min 30sec

"Fly duet" Jupiter[1], in the guise of a fly, sneaks into her locked room through the keyhole; seduction follows (The scene opens with Cupid running across the stage). 5min 1sec

Finale Expressions going from dismay and consternation to gaiety in a few seconds, and some expressions I don't have names for. (She has just found out that Jupiter[1], the tall fellow in white at her left, is going to change her into a bacchante [3], for eternity in the Underworld.) 1min 15sec.

Entire opera. 2hr 2min 13sec

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L'air des clochettes (Bell song) "Ou va la jeune hindoue". LAKMÉ, Léo Delibes. Natalie Dessay -- pure beauty in sight and sound -- what is her facial expression? In contrast to the fluid, diverse presentation of changes in the previous links, here is a steady, contemplative performance (with an exception at 5 minutes 59.7 seconds- A brief smile, approximately 0.1397 seconds long.) My mirror neurons are activating big time, and my tear ducts, and I'm grinning, and I can't tell exactly what it's about. I just had to include this link. :-D

(Here's the same song, with an audience. Check out the singing at 4m50s-5m24s and 6:49-end.)

(These are good to watch without sound. In the first one particularly, the studio recording, watch the orchestra behind her, which is punctuating. Her expression throughout most of this performance I would call "worshipful," particularly when she raises her hands, and just after the last note.)

More Dessay.... The mechanical doll in Tales of Hoffman (and a modest one! Pulling her dress down, at 0:41 seconds).
Les oiseaux dans la charmille - English Subs - Les Contes d'Hoffmann, and here's a synopsis.

Articles related to Natalie Dessay

49 consecutive selections with Dessay.

Paley Center, and Met, reviews of Dessay.

.... I got a bit carried away.... What does this have to do with mirror neurons? Or with empathy? Well, facial expressions and body language. (Here's a PDF about facial expressions: https://www2.bc.edu/~russeljm/publications/fac_expr_mean.pdf. Oddly, there are no illustrations of facial expressions.) I got diverted, off track in my fourth wall comments. As I was making the screen shots of Dessay addressing the audience, I realized her range of expressions was worth focusing on. Back to the fourth wall comments.... Fourth wall awareness, or awareness of the context of an experience, can be instructive, and is worth cultivating. But it can be carried too far. The fourth wall -- in this case, taken to be the lens, or collection of filters and presuppositions and expectations one has -- is supposed to be transparent, not filled with grids, lists, diagrams, and measuring rods. We don't want to become too aware, second guessing and tripping ourselves up, like Aesop's centipede.

This fourth wall stuff has a bearing (IMO) on an issue regarding free will, which is the claim that, if God knows the future, then the future is fixed, and we have no free will to do otherwise than what God knows will happen. (See Footnote 14) (Discussion to be developed later.)

23. Based on a genre of arithmetic riddles. Actually there’s no clear answer as far as I can see. Mirror neurons operate in concert or have single functions, and how they interact (if they do) with other mirror neurons, in one’s self or another person, is something I’m ignorant about. Of course “6-1/2” is silly anyway.

24. Based on “Why did the chicken cross the road?”

25. Based on the “Isabelknock knock joke. In this case, at the end, the usual sequence is reversed.

Part Four: Footnotes

under construction-- Most of this file is being edited -- come back later. :-)


Top of page (for people who googled "chickens mirror neurons")

Start of page

Part One: The Jokes

Part Two: Disclaimer

Part Three: Comments on the jokes

Part Four: Footnotes

Part Five: Random notes

Part Six: Using various search engines

Part Seven: Rizzolatti

Part Eight: Ramachandran (text) (see also his Ted talk: "The Neurons That Shaped Civilization", November 2009, and transcript of that talk.)
(Uploaded Apr 14, 2012) "Being Human" 4:31, on Mirror neurons and phantom limb phenomenon- Woman felt pain in phantom thumb until she watched her husband massage his thumb(also refer to Nov 2009 Ramachandran video, at 6:47)

Part Nine: Contrary views

Part Ten: PubMed and PubMed Central journal articles

Part Eleven: Mirror neurons unite! (Nothing done with this, so far....)

Part Twelve: Mirror neurons and religion

Part Thirteen: Contents

Part Fourteen Empathy cartoons (about Nonviolent Communication)

Part Fifteen: The Fourth Wall (Remember, this is a DRAFT. I haven't figured out yet, where to put this internal link. You can use CTRL+F to find "fourth wall" or "4th wall". Or just "wall" for that matter.

Part Sixteen: Natalie Dessay, a discussion and links embedded in a discussion of the 4th wall.

Part Seventeen: Romans 9 -- To be edited

Part Eighteen HTML guides

Part Nineteen: YouTube navigation tips using keyboard

Part Twenty: Shawn Achor on mirror neurons. Use CTRL+F to find specific references to mirror neurons, in the transcript to which this links. That phrase appears 8 times in the transcript.

End of Contents

Email me at

Next- Yahoo! search engine. This is something like Google. You'll get different results. For example, if you google "chickens mirror neurons" you'll get mirror_neuron_humor, which starts with a link to Joke #22, which itself has someone getting Joke 22 when they google "chickens mirror neurons"); that won't happen with the Yahoo! search, even if you add "ground4ideas" (hmmmph!). (Hopefully you have read Joke 22 and know what I'm talking about.)


Click here for a cat-in-the-box GIF-video. Do cats have mirror neurons? Can they tell when we are in a playful mood? Could you be a pet for your cat? I tried that once, standing in the middle of the room, slowly and slightly teetering first to one side, then the other. I wanted to do something simple that would get the cat's attention and please it. The teetering seemed to work. The cat watched me for a long time, and purred. I wondered if it was feeling like I was a pet. Does that question make sense? Maybe a better way to phrase it would be, "Was it experiencing me as a human experiences a pet?" Hmmm, that's not quite it....

(This link, for 1011, isn't finished.)


Click here for Contents.

"In area F5 of the monkey premotor cortex there are neurons that discharge both when the monkey performs an action and when he observes a similar action made by another monkey or by the experimenter. We report here some of the properties of these 'mirror' neurons and we propose that their activity 'represents' the observed action. We posit, then, that this motor representation is at the basis of the understanding of motor events." 8713554 "Premotor cortex and the recognition of motor actions." Rizzolatti G1, Fadiga L, Gallese V, Fogassi L. (1996)

"Mirror neurons are a class of neurons, originally discovered in the premotor cortex of monkeys, that discharge both when individuals perform a given motor act and when they observe others perform that same motor act. Ample evidence demonstrates the existence of a cortical network with the properties of mirror neurons (mirror system) in humans. The human mirror system is involved in understanding others' actions and their intentions behind them, and it underlies mechanisms of observational learning." 19433654 "The mirror neuron system." Cattaneo L, Rizzolatti G. (2009)

Here are some results of a PubMed search for mirror neuron articles, which are about Rizzolatti or of which he is one of the authors, and some related earlier articles about or by him. (Italicized PMID links indicate free full text):

23583968 Brain function overlaps when people observe emblems, speech, and grasping. Andric M, Solodkin A, Buccino G, Goldin-Meadow S, Rizzolatti G, Small SL. Neuropsychologia. 2013 Jul;51(8):1619-29. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2013.03.022. Epub 2013 Apr 11.

23262089 Mirror neurons are class of neurons discovered by Rizzolatti and colleagues. Casile A. Neurosci Lett. 2013 Apr 12;540:1-2. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2012.12.010. Epub 2012 Dec 20. No abstract available.

22995779 The neural correlates of velocity processing during the observation of a biological effector in the parietal and premotor cortex. Di Dio C, Di Cesare G, Higuchi S, Roberts N, Vogt S, Rizzolatti G. Neuroimage. 2013 Jan 1;64:425-36. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.09.026. Epub 2012 Sep 17.

22753471 Mirror neurons encode the subjective value of an observed action. Caggiano V, Fogassi L, Rizzolatti G, Casile A, Giese MA, Thier P. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Jul 17;109(29):11848-53. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1205553109. Epub 2012 Jul 2. Free PMC Article

22624046 The dynamics of sensorimotor cortical oscillations during the observation of hand movements: an EEG study. Avanzini P, Fabbri-Destro M, Dalla Volta R, Daprati E, Rizzolatti G, Cantalupo G. PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e37534. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0037534. Epub 2012 May 18. Free PMC Article

21389229 Action observation circuits in the macaque monkey cortex. Nelissen K, Borra E, Gerbella M, Rozzi S, Luppino G, Vanduffel W, Rizzolatti G, Orban GA. J Neurosci. 2011 Mar 9;31(10):3743-56. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4803-10.2011. Free PMC Article

21236674 View-based encoding of actions in mirror neurons of area f5 in macaque premotor cortex. Caggiano V, Fogassi L, Rizzolatti G, Pomper JK, Thier P, Giese MA, Casile A. Curr Biol. 2011 Jan 25;21(2):144-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.12.022. Epub 2011 Jan 13.

21220203 Through the looking glass: self and others. Sinigaglia C, Rizzolatti G. Conscious Cogn. 2011 Mar;20(1):64-74. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2010.11.012. Epub 2011 Jan 8. Review.

20730095 Understanding actions of others: the electrodynamics of the left and right hemispheres. A high-density EEG neuroimaging study. Ortigue S, Sinigaglia C, Rizzolatti G, Grafton ST. PLoS One. 2010 Aug 13;5(8):e12160. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012160. Free PMC Article

20657777 Brain response to a humanoid robot in areas implicated in the perception of human emotional gestures. Chaminade T, Zecca M, Blakemore SJ, Takanishi A, Frith CD, Micera S, Dario P, Rizzolatti G, Gallese V, Umiltà MA. PLoS One. 2010 Jul 21;5(7):e11577. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0011577. Free PMC Article

20577726 Responses of mirror neurons in area F5 to hand and tool grasping observation. Rochat MJ, Caruana F, Jezzini A, Escola L, Intskirveli I, Grammont F, Gallese V, Rizzolatti G, Umiltà MA. Exp Brain Res. 2010 Aug;204(4):605-16. doi: 10.1007/s00221-010-2329-9. Epub 2010 Jun 26. Free PMC Article

20577628 Seven years of recording from monkey cortex with a chronically implanted multiple microelectrode. Krüger J, Caruana F, Volta RD, Rizzolatti G. Front Neuroeng. 2010 May 28;3:6. doi: 10.3389/fneng.2010.00006. eCollection 2010. Free PMC Article

20445039 Coding observed motor acts: different organizational principles in the parietal and premotor cortex of humans. Jastorff J, Begliomini C, Fabbri-Destro M, Rizzolatti G, Orban GA. J Neurophysiol. 2010 Jul;104(1):128-40. doi: 10.1152/jn.00254.2010. Epub 2010 May 5. Free Article

20216547 The functional role of the parieto-frontal mirror circuit: interpretations and misinterpretations. Rizzolatti G, Sinigaglia C. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2010 Apr;11(4):264-74. doi: 10.1038/nrn2805. Epub 2010 Mar 10. Review.

19826471 Understanding others' regret: a FMRI study. Canessa N, Motterlini M, Di Dio C, Perani D, Scifo P, Cappa SF, Rizzolatti G. PLoS One. 2009 Oct 14;4(10):e7402. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007402. Free PMC Article

19760408 Mirror neurons: from discovery to autism. Rizzolatti G, Fabbri-Destro M. Exp Brain Res. 2010 Jan;200(3-4):223-37. doi: 10.1007/s00221-009-2002-3. Epub 2009 Sep 18. Review. No abstract available.

19759300 The representation of tool use in humans and monkeys: common and uniquely human features. Peeters R, Simone L, Nelissen K, Fabbri-Destro M, Vanduffel W, Rizzolatti G, Orban GA. J Neurosci. 2009 Sep 16;29(37):11523-39. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2040-09.2009. Free Article

19433654 The mirror neuron system. Cattaneo L, Rizzolatti G. Arch Neurol. 2009 May;66(5):557-60. doi: 10.1001/archneurol.2009.41. Review.

19372433 Mirror neurons differentially encode the peripersonal and extrapersonal space of monkeys. Caggiano V, Fogassi L, Rizzolatti G, Thier P, Casile A. Science. 2009 Apr 17;324(5925):403-6. doi: 10.1126/science.1166818. Free Article

19129788 Mirror neurons and their clinical relevance. Rizzolatti G, Fabbri-Destro M, Cattaneo L. Nat Clin Pract Neurol. 2009 Jan;5(1):24-34. doi: 10.1038/ncpneuro0990. Review.

18979380 Neural substrates for observing and imagining non-object-directed actions. Lui F, Buccino G, Duzzi D, Benuzzi F, Crisi G, Baraldi P, Nichelli P, Porro CA, Rizzolatti G. Soc Neurosci. 2008;3(3-4):261-75. doi: 10.1080/17470910701458551.

18839160 Planning actions in autism. Fabbri-Destro M, Cattaneo L, Boria S, Rizzolatti G. Exp Brain Res. 2009 Jan;192(3):521-5. doi: 10.1007/s00221-008-1578-3. Epub 2008 Oct 7.

18706501 The mirror system and its role in social cognition. Rizzolatti G, Fabbri-Destro M. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2008 Apr;18(2):179-84. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2008.08.001. Epub 2008 Aug 20. Review.

18691325 Functional organization of inferior parietal lobule convexity in the macaque monkey: electrophysiological characterization of motor, sensory and mirror responses and their correlation with cytoarchitectonic areas. Rozzi S, Ferrari PF, Bonini L, Rizzolatti G, Fogassi L. Eur J Neurosci. 2008 Oct;28(8):1569-88. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2008.06395.x. Epub 2008 Aug 7.

18556470 Mirror neurons and mirror systems in monkeys and humans. Fabbri-Destro M, Rizzolatti G. Physiology (Bethesda). 2008 Jun;23:171-9. doi: 10.1152/physiol.00004.2008. Review. Free Article

18182127 Mirror neurons and motor intentionality. Rizzolatti G, Sinigaglia C. Funct Neurol. 2007 Oct-Dec;22(4):205-10. Review.

17965234 Impairment of actions chains in autism and its possible role in intention understanding. Cattaneo L, Fabbri-Destro M, Boria S, Pieraccini C, Monti A, Cossu G, Rizzolatti G. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Nov 6;104(45):17825-30. Epub 2007 Oct 26. Free PMC Article

17698372 Prefrontal involvement in imitation learning of hand actions: effects of practice and expertise. Vogt S, Buccino G, Wohlschläger AM, Canessa N, Shah NJ, Zilles K, Eickhoff SB, Freund HJ, Rizzolatti G, Fink GR. Neuroimage. 2007 Oct 1;37(4):1371-83. Epub 2007 Jul 17.

17629484 Aplasics born without hands mirror the goal of hand actions with their feet. Gazzola V, van der Worp H, Mulder T, Wicker B, Rizzolatti G, Keysers C. Curr Biol. 2007 Jul 17;17(14):1235-40.

17499159 The neural basis for understanding non-intended actions. Buccino G, Baumgaertner A, Colle L, Buechel C, Rizzolatti G, Binkofski F. Neuroimage. 2007;36 Suppl 2:T119-27. Epub 2007 Mar 31.

17395490 The anthropomorphic brain: the mirror neuron system responds to human and robotic actions. Gazzola V, Rizzolatti G, Wicker B, Keysers C. Neuroimage. 2007 May 1;35(4):1674-84. Epub 2007 Feb 13.

16979559 Congruent embodied representations for visually presented actions and linguistic phrases describing actions. Aziz-Zadeh L, Wilson SM, Rizzolatti G, Iacoboni M. Curr Biol. 2006 Sep 19;16(18):1818-23.

16649712 The inferior parietal lobule: where action becomes perception. Rizzolatti G, Ferrari PF, Rozzi S, Fogassi L. Novartis Found Symp. 2006;270:129-40; discussion 140-5, 164-9. Review.

16224029 Observing others: multiple action representation in the frontal lobe. Nelissen K, Luppino G, Vanduffel W, Rizzolatti G, Orban GA. Science. 2005 Oct 14;310(5746):332-6. Free Article

16222545 The mirror neuron system and its function in humans. Rizzolatti G. Anat Embryol (Berl). 2005 Dec;210(5-6):419-21. No abstract available.

15811239 Listening to action-related sentences activates fronto-parietal motor circuits. Tettamanti M, Buccino G, Saccuman MC, Gallese V, Danna M, Scifo P, Fazio F, Rizzolatti G, Cappa SF, Perani D. J Cogn Neurosci. 2005 Feb;17(2):273-81.

15736981 Grasping the intentions of others with one's own mirror neuron system. Iacoboni M, Molnar-Szakacs I, Gallese V, Buccino G, Mazziotta JC, Rizzolatti G. PLoS Biol. 2005 Mar;3(3):e79. Epub 2005 Feb 22. Free PMC Article

15350240 A unifying view of the basis of social cognition. Gallese V, Keysers C, Rizzolatti G. Trends Cogn Sci. 2004 Sep;8(9):396-403.

15217330 The mirror-neuron system. Rizzolatti G, Craighero L. Annu Rev Neurosci. 2004;27:169-92. Review.

15091346 Neural circuits underlying imitation learning of hand actions: an event-related fMRI study. Buccino G, Vogt S, Ritzl A, Fink GR, Zilles K, Freund HJ, Rizzolatti G. Neuron. 2004 Apr 22;42(2):323-34.

15006041 Neural circuits involved in the recognition of actions performed by nonconspecifics: an FMRI study. Buccino G, Lui F, Canessa N, Patteri I, Lagravinese G, Benuzzi F, Porro CA, Rizzolatti G. J Cogn Neurosci. 2004 Jan-Feb;16(1):114-26.

12752388 Mirror neurons responding to the observation of ingestive and communicative mouth actions in the monkey ventral premotor cortex. Ferrari PF, Gallese V, Rizzolatti G, Fogassi L. Eur J Neurosci. 2003 Apr;17(8):1703-14.

12161656 Hearing sounds, understanding actions: action representation in mirror neurons. Kohler E, Keysers C, Umiltà MA, Fogassi L, Gallese V, Rizzolatti G. Science. 2002 Aug 2;297(5582):846-8. Free Article

12015230 Motor and cognitive functions of the ventral premotor cortex. Rizzolatti G, Fogassi L, Gallese V. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2002 Apr;12(2):149-54. Review.

11749979 Hand action preparation influences the responses to hand pictures. Craighero L, Bello A, Fadiga L, Rizzolatti G. Neuropsychologia. 2002;40(5):492-502.

11717457 Reafferent copies of imitated actions in the right superior temporal cortex. Iacoboni M, Koski LM, Brass M, Bekkering H, Woods RP, Dubeau MC, Mazziotta JC, Rizzolatti G. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Nov 20;98(24):13995-9. Free PMC Article

11498058 I know what you are doing. a neurophysiological study. Umiltà MA, Kohler E, Gallese V, Fogassi L, Fadiga L, Keysers C, Rizzolatti G. Neuron. 2001 Jul 19;31(1):155-65.

11222457 Cortical mechanism for the visual guidance of hand grasping movements in the monkey: A reversible inactivation study. Fogassi L, Gallese V, Buccino G, Craighero L, Fadiga L, Rizzolatti G. Brain. 2001 Mar;124(Pt 3):571-86. Free Article

11168545 Action observation activates premotor and parietal areas in a somatotopic manner: an fMRI study. Buccino G, Binkofski F, Fink GR, Fadiga L, Fogassi L, Gallese V, Seitz RJ, Zilles K, Rizzolatti G, Freund HJ. Eur J Neurosci. 2001 Jan;13(2):400-4.

10677645 Visuomotor neurons: ambiguity of the discharge or 'motor' perception? Fadiga L, Fogassi L, Gallese V, Rizzolatti G. Int J Psychophysiol. 2000 Mar;35(2-3):165-77. Review.

10641315 Action for perception: a motor-visual attentional effect. Craighero L, Fadiga L, Rizzolatti G, Umiltà C. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 1999 Dec;25(6):1673-92.

10510191 A fronto-parietal circuit for object manipulation in man: evidence from an fMRI-study. Binkofski F, Buccino G, Posse S, Seitz RJ, Rizzolatti G, Freund H. Eur J Neurosci. 1999 Sep;11(9):3276-86.

10473761 A parieto-premotor network for object manipulation: evidence from neuroimaging. Binkofski F, Buccino G, Stephan KM, Rizzolatti G, Seitz RJ, Freund HJ. Exp Brain Res. 1999 Sep;128(1-2):210-3.

10349488 Resonance behaviors and mirror neurons. Rizzolatti G, Fadiga L, Fogassi L, Gallese V. Arch Ital Biol. 1999 May;137(2-3):85-100. Review.

09949817 Grasping objects and grasping action meanings: the dual role of monkey rostroventral premotor cortex (area F5). Rizzolatti G, Fadiga L. Novartis Found Symp. 1998;218:81-95; discussion 95-103. Review.

09844015 Activation of human primary motor cortex during action observation: a neuromagnetic study. Hari R, Forss N, Avikainen S, Kirveskari E, Salenius S, Rizzolatti G. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Dec 8;95(25):15061-5. Free PMC Article

09610880 Language within our grasp. Rizzolatti G, Arbib MA. Trends Neurosci. 1998 May;21(5):188-94. Review.

09417966 Premotor cortex activation during observation and naming of familiar tools. Grafton ST, Fadiga L, Arbib MA, Rizzolatti G. Neuroimage. 1997 Nov;6(4):231-6.

09325390 Object representation in the ventral premotor cortex (area F5) of the monkey. Murata A, Fadiga L, Fogassi L, Gallese V, Raos V, Rizzolatti G. J Neurophysiol. 1997 Oct;78(4):2226-30. Free Article

08951412 Localization of grasp representations in humans by positron emission tomography. 2. Observation compared with imagination. Grafton ST, Arbib MA, Fadiga L, Rizzolatti G. Exp Brain Res. 1996 Nov;112(1):103-11.

08836215 Coding of peripersonal space in inferior premotor cortex (area F4). Fogassi L, Gallese V, Fadiga L, Luppino G, Matelli M, Rizzolatti G. J Neurophysiol. 1996 Jul;76(1):141-57.

08800951 Action recognition in the premotor cortex. Gallese V, Fadiga L, Fogassi L, Rizzolatti G. Brain. 1996 Apr;119 ( Pt 2):593-609. Free Article

08713554 Premotor cortex and the recognition of motor actions. Rizzolatti G, Fadiga L, Gallese V, Fogassi L. Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 1996 Mar;3(2):131-41.

08056071 Orienting of attention and eye movements. Sheliga BM, Riggio L, Rizzolatti G. Exp Brain Res. 1994;98(3):507-22.

07571012 Grasping objects: the cortical mechanisms of visuomotor transformation. Jeannerod M, Arbib MA, Rizzolatti G, Sakata H. Trends Neurosci. 1995 Jul;18(7):314-20. Review.

07507940 Corticocortical connections of area F3 (SMA-proper) and area F6 (pre-SMA) in the macaque monkey. Luppino G, Matelli M, Camarda R, Rizzolatti G. J Comp Neurol. 1993 Dec 1;338(1):114-40.

06732954 [Intrinsic and extrinsic connections of the postarcuate premotor area of the monkey]. Camarda R, Matelli M, Glickstein M, Rizzolatti G. Boll Soc Ital Biol Sper. 1984 Apr 30;60(4):823-9. Italian.

06661279 Upper visual space neglect and motor deficits after section of the midbrain commissures in the cat. Matelli M, Olivieri MF, Saccani A, Rizzolatti G. Behav Brain Res. 1983 Dec;10(2-3):263-85.

06488031 Interconnections within the postarcuate cortex (area 6) of the macaque monkey. Matelli M, Camarda R, Glickstein M, Rizzolatti G. Brain Res. 1984 Sep 24;310(2):388-92.

03574648 Reorienting attention across the horizontal and vertical meridians: evidence in favor of a premotor theory of attention. Rizzolatti G, Riggio L, Dascola I, Umiltá C. Neuropsychologia. 1987;25(1A):31-40.

03574647 Movements of attention in the three spatial dimensions and the meaning of "neutral" cues. de Gonzaga Gawryszewski L, Riggio L, Rizzolatti G, Umiltá C. Neuropsychologia. 1987;25(1A):19-29.

02758288 Somatotopic representation in inferior area 6 of the macaque monkey. Gentilucci M, Fogassi L, Luppino G, Matelli M, Camarda R, Rizzolatti G. Brain Behav Evol. 1989;33(2-3):118-21.

02257908 Cortico-cortical connections of two electrophysiologically identified arm representations in the mesial agranular frontal cortex. Luppino G, Matelli M, Rizzolatti G. Exp Brain Res. 1990;82(1):214-8.

02049487 Differential hemispheric asymmetries in depression and anxiety: a reaction-time study. Liotti M, Sava D, Rizzolatti G, Caffarra P. Biol Psychiatry. 1991 May 1;29(9):887-99.

01644132 Space coding by premotor cortex. Fogassi L, Gallese V, di Pellegrino G, Fadiga L, Gentilucci M, Luppino G, Matelli M, Pedotti A, Rizzolatti G. Exp Brain Res. 1992;89(3):686-90.

01301372 Understanding motor events: a neurophysiological study. di Pellegrino G, Fadiga L, Fogassi L, Gallese V, Rizzolatti G. Exp Brain Res. 1992;91(1):176-80.

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But you never know. This was done, going over the edge, in a story by Roger Zelazny, Lord of Light, which is one of my favorite sci-fi novels. (650 reviews.) He used a pun that makes me LOL whenever I remember it. The story is about a few people who, with advanced technology, rule a planet, adopting the characteristics of gods in the Hindu pantheon. Using machines that relocate their minds in other bodies, they persuade the populace that giving their bodies for this purpose is a noble act, so they can be immortal, avoiding terminal illnesses and fatal injuries. In one case, someone sabotages a substitution by providing someone with epilepsy to donate their body. The person being relocated has a political role called "Shan". Zelazney writes that the Shan was riding out of town on his horse, "and then the fit hit the Shan." I had my own fit, of laughter. This was a huge fourth wall situation, but it didn't bother me a bit that Zelazny had made me read several pages just to lead up to this pun.

(Which I knew was a canonical pun, and I should have seen it coming- All the more funny because I didn't.)

Footnote 1: Telling a "cleaned up" ethnic joke- This was about 30 years ago, at a New Year's Eve party. I had started telling a Polish joke to two teenage girls, whose mother (the hostess) was sitting next to them. I got as far as, "There was this Polish guy who," and she interrupted, "We don't tell jokes about ethnic groups." That stopped me for about three seconds; then I proceded to tell the joke, with a slight variation: "There was this Martian who..." The mother was reluctant to come to the defense of Martians, but she knew I was pulling a fast one. I felt terrible about doing this, later.

Transcript of Ramachandran TED talk Nov 2009 (7:40)

I'd like to talk to you today about the human brain, which is what we do research on at the University of California. Just think about this problem for a second. Here is a lump of flesh, about three pounds, which you can hold in the palm of your hand. But it can contemplate the vastness of interstellar space. It can contemplate the meaning of infinity, ask questions about the meaning of its own existence, about the nature of God.

0:34 And this is truly the most amazing thing in the world. It's the greatest mystery confronting human beings: How does this all come about? Well, the brain, as you know, is made up of neurons. We're looking at neurons here. There are 100 billion neurons in the adult human brain. And each neuron makes something like 1,000 to 10,000 contacts with other neurons in the brain. And based on this, people have calculated that the number of permutations and combinations of brain activity exceeds the number of elementary particles in the universe.

1:01 So, how do you go about studying the brain? One approach is to look at patients who had lesions in different part of the brain, and study changes in their behavior. This is what I spoke about in the last TED. Today I'll talk about a different approach, which is to put electrodes in different parts of the brain, and actually record the activity of individual nerve cells in the brain. Sort of eavesdrop on the activity of nerve cells in the brain.

1:22 Now, one recent discovery that has been made by researchers in Italy, in Parma, by Giacomo Rizzolatti and his colleagues, is a group of neurons called mirror neurons, which are on the front of the brain in the frontal lobes. Now, it turns out there are neurons which are called ordinary motor command neurons in the front of the brain, which have been known for over 50 years. These neurons will fire when a person performs a specific action. For example, if I do that, and reach and grab an apple, a motor command neuron in the front of my brain will fire. If I reach out and pull an object, another neuron will fire, commanding me to pull that object. These are called motor command neurons that have been known for a long time.

1:59 But what Rizzolatti found was a subset of these neurons, maybe about 20 percent of them, will also fire when I'm looking at somebody else performing the same action. So, here is a neuron that fires when I reach and grab something, but it also fires when I watch Joe reaching and grabbing something. And this is truly astonishing. Because it's as though this neuron is adopting the other person's point of view. It's almost as though it's performing a virtual reality simulation of the other person's action.

2:26 Now, what is the significance of these mirror neurons? For one thing they must be involved in things like imitation and emulation. Because to imitate a complex act requires my brain to adopt the other person's point of view. So, this is important for imitation and emulation. Well, why is that important? Well, let's take a look at the next slide. So, how do you do imitation? Why is imitation important? Mirror neurons and imitation, emulation.

2:50 Now, let's look at culture, the phenomenon of human culture. If you go back in time about [75,000] to 100,000 years ago, let's look at human evolution, it turns out that something very important happened around 75,000 years ago. And that is, there is a sudden emergence and rapid spread of a number of skills that are unique to human beings like tool use, the use of fire, the use of shelters, and, of course, language, and the ability to read somebody else's mind and interpret that person's behavior. All of that happened relatively quickly.

3:19 Even though the human brain had achieved its present size almost three or four hundred thousand years ago, 100,000 years ago all of this happened very, very quickly. And I claim that what happened was the sudden emergence of a sophisticated mirror neuron system, which allowed you to emulate and imitate other people's actions. So that when there was a sudden accidental discovery by one member of the group, say the use of fire, or a particular type of tool, instead of dying out, this spread rapidly, horizontally across the population, or was transmitted vertically, down the generations.

3:49 So, this made evolution suddenly Lamarckian, instead of Darwinian. Darwinian evolution is slow; it takes hundreds of thousands of years. A polar bear, to evolve a coat, will take thousands of generations, maybe 100,000 years. A human being, a child, can just watch its parent kill another polar bear, and skin it and put the skin on its body, fur on the body, and learn it in one step. What the polar bear took 100,000 years to learn, it can learn in five minutes, maybe 10 minutes. And then once it's learned this it spreads in geometric proportion across a population.

4:22 This is the basis. The imitation of complex skills is what we call culture and is the basis of civilization. Now there is another kind of mirror neuron, which is involved in something quite different. And that is, there are mirror neurons, just as there are mirror neurons for action, there are mirror neurons for touch. In other words, if somebody touches me, my hand, neuron in the somatosensory cortex in the sensory region of the brain fires. But the same neuron, in some cases, will fire when I simply watch another person being touched. So, it's empathizing the other person being touched.

4:51 So, most of them will fire when I'm touched in different locations. Different neurons for different locations. But a subset of them will fire even when I watch somebody else being touched in the same location. So, here again you have neurons which are enrolled in empathy. Now, the question then arises: If I simply watch another person being touched, why do I not get confused and literally feel that touch sensation merely by watching somebody being touched? I mean, I empathize with that person but I don't literally feel the touch. Well, that's because you've got receptors in your skin, touch and pain receptors, going back into your brain and saying "Don't worry, you're not being touched. So, empathize, by all means, with the other person, but do not actually experience the touch, otherwise you'll get confused and muddled."

5:31 Okay, so there is a feedback signal that vetoes the signal of the mirror neuron preventing you from consciously experiencing that touch. But if you remove the arm, you simply anesthetize my arm, so you put an injection into my arm, anesthetize the brachial plexus, so the arm is numb, and there is no sensations coming in, if I now watch you being touched, I literally feel it in my hand. In other words, you have dissolved the barrier between you and other human beings. So, I call them Gandhi neurons, or empathy neurons. (Laughter)

5:59 And this is not in some abstract metaphorical sense. All that's separating you from him, from the other person, is your skin. Remove the skin, you experience that person's touch in your mind. You've dissolved the barrier between you and other human beings. And this, of course, is the basis of much of Eastern philosophy, and that is there is no real independent self, aloof from other human beings, inspecting the world, inspecting other people. You are, in fact, connected not just via Facebook and Internet, you're actually quite literally connected by your neurons. And there is whole chains of neurons around this room, talking to each other. And there is no real distinctiveness of your consciousness from somebody else's consciousness.

6:35 And this is not mumbo-jumbo philosophy. It emerges from our understanding of basic neuroscience. So, you have a patient with a phantom limb. If the arm has been removed and you have a phantom, and you watch somebody else being touched, you feel it in your phantom. Now the astonishing thing is, if you have pain in your phantom limb, you squeeze the other person's hand, massage the other person's hand, that relieves the pain in your phantom hand, almost as though the neuron were obtaining relief from merely watching somebody else being massaged.

7:02 So, here you have my last slide. For the longest time people have regarded science and humanities as being distinct. C.P. Snow spoke of the two cultures: science on the one hand, humanities on the other; never the twain shall meet. So, I'm saying the mirror neuron system underlies the interface allowing you to rethink about issues like consciousness, representation of self, what separates you from other human beings, what allows you to empathize with other human beings, and also even things like the emergence of culture and civilization, which is unique to human beings. Thank you. (Applause)

At the YouTube page showing a horse petting a kitten, is this comment: "When caring for my employer's horses, we found them taking turns standing in the middle of the pasture in the same spot for a week, even during feeding time, one would stay there. We found they were standing over a mother cat and new kittens. I have the now 14 year old runt of the litter, one of them still lives in the horse barn."

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Controlling the action while watching YouTube videos. These don't necessarily work for non-YouTube videos, for example, TED talk site, Ramachandran on mirror neurons (Same recording at YouTube. For videos generally, click or drag the control elements under the video screen. Toggle the play/pause icon rapidly, or drag the progress-dot left or right. NOTE: In either mode, you can toggle play/pause with single clicks on the screen, but watch out; if you do it too fast, you'll change modes. Also, single clicking in full screen mode is straightforward, just putting a little time between clicks, to toggle play/pause. In partial screen mode, unless you move the cursor between clicks, subsequent clicks may not do anything, until done more than one time.

Keyboard control (the first 4 do not work in full screen mode, but ESC does):
J -- back up a few seconds
K -- toggle pause/play -- You can advance just a few frames at a time
L -- forward a few seconds
Zooming -- Hold down a CTRL key (either side), zoom in/out with [+]/[-] keys (same as [=] and [_] keys.)
ESC key gets you out of full screen mode (no effect in partial screen mode)

Mouse control:
See initial remarks, above, about double and single clicking on screen, to toggle start/pause, and using the control elements below the video part of the screen. Mainly: Don't click too quickly, or you'll change modes. Zooming: Holding down one of the CTRL keys, roll the mouse wheel. (Get same effect with CTRL and + or - keys.)
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Jupiter, in Orpheus (Lyons 1997), is played by Natalie Dessay's husband, Laurent Naori. Knowing this makes the seduction scene in the Fly Duet, particularly entertaining. (Use your browser's back arrow to return.)

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  YouTube videos (Here's a great tutorial on how neurons work. It starts simple.)

Footnote 1 About "I'm sure the script writer thought it would be going too far," actually I'm only about 80% sure. Uncertain about the fourth wall aspect here.