An exhibit currently running at the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences presents an interesting – and illuminating – intersection of art and science.
Mirror neurons are neurons which fire signals to the brain not only when an animal acts, but also when it observes another animal’s actions. The implications are wide ranging – certain scientists have posited that these neurons provide a neurobiological basis for complex learning (think language) which is based on mimicry. For this reason, the discovery of mirror neurons is considered one of the more important recent discoveries in the realm of neuroscience.
Caron believes that the mirror neuron has particular bearing on artists like her. In her words, “…as a performer, emotional exchange is a big part of performance. I was interested to learn that there’s actually a neurobiological basis for this, and a function that’s not just purple fluffy stuff and feelings.” Caron feels that the emotional resonance that draws people to art and performance has its roots in the so-called “empathy neuron,” too.
She explores this idea in her installation, which is constituted of an elaborate construction of the brain’s internal architecture and an interactive performance in which Caron engages her audience in various ways to try and get their mirror neurons firing. If you’re interested in learning more about the exhibit, check out it’s site here.