Greg Hickok

In the early 2000s, the cognitive scientist Gregory Hickok of the University of California, Irvine, found that neurons in the brain’s motor areas related to speech production became active when participants listened to speech. While it was not a shocking finding — “that’s just how the system works,” Hickok said — other scientists began viewing his results through a mirror-neuron lens. … In 2009, the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience invited Hickok to write a critique of the theory. He used speech as a test case to refute the grandiose claim that mirror neurons in the motor cortex allowed a monkey to understand another’s actions. … The much-cited critique led to a book deal [and public debate].

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