sábado, 28 de septiembre de 2013

miércoles, 25 de septiembre de 2013

Global Multidisciplinary e- Conference

Global Multidisciplinary e-Conference 2013-dedicated to the UNESCO`s World Science Day

Distinguished Researchers,
We are pleased to announce that the European Scientific Institute, ESI has become
official UNESCO 2013 world science day celebration partner. ESI
together with its partners, the University of the Azores, Portugal and Grigol
Robakidze University, Georgia have joined the UN celebration of world
science day by lunching the Global Multidisciplinary e-Conference 2013.
This academic scientific event will gather researchers from universities, companies
and government executives from all around the globe. The
participants will present their scientific attainments in various academic
disciplines in online sessions. The event will connect different cultures
and attitudes thus contributing to: knowledge transfer, sharing best practices and
research skills improvement.
All accepted papers will be published as a special publication with an ISBN number.
The authors will be also sent a printed copy of the publication
after the conference finishes.
The papers will be also published in a special edition of one of the most
Influential international scientific journals in South Europe, The European
Scientific Journal (ESJ). ( http://eujournal.org/index.php/esj )
Authors will be given the opportunity, on their request, to make an online
presentation. However the authors of the accepted papers are not obliged to
present their works. 
We welcome submission in all UN official languages. Online presentations will be in
Supporting the concept of interdisciplinarity we welcome submissions in all academic
European Scientific Institute, ESI
Grigol Robakidze University, Georgia 
University of the Azores, Portugal

 For a submission or any other information please send us an e-mail on:
Email: contact@econferenceunday.net ( mailto:contact@econferenceunday.net )
Website: http://econferenceunday.net/

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sábado, 21 de septiembre de 2013

Culturas y drogas: nuevos estudios y perspectivas

Suicide State

"Suicide State" Excerpts from Giroux's Blistering talk at the Ontario Common Front Assembly.

It's a well put together 12 minutes. . .
from American's Numero Uno anthropologist (with small "a" - the best kind))
Excerpts of Giroux's talk at the Ontario Common Front Assembly.
In Solidarity,

reiniciar Chaman in Wikimedia Commons


I.S.M.A. Association

إعادة تشغيل الشامان
مشروع الأصليين للتنمية البشرية في أوروبا


restart Shaman
An Indigenous Project for Human Development in Europe

Autopoiesis, Culture and Society

Humberto Mariotti


الصنع الذاتي والثقافة والمجتمع

The concept of autopoiesis has long surpassed the realm of biology. It has been used in areas so diverse as sociology, psychotherapy, management, anthropology, organizational culture, and many others. This circumstance transformed it in a very important and useful instrument for the investigation of reality. Years ago, Chilean scientists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela proposed the following question: to what extent human social phenomenology could be seen as a biological phenomenology? The purpose of this article is to look for an answer to this question. However, before getting to it I think that it is necessary to review some of the fundamental principles introduced by these two authors.

Poiesis is a Greek term that means production. Autopoiesis means autoproduction. This word appeared for the first time in the international literature in 1974, in an article published by Varela, Maturana, and Uribe, in which living beings are seen as systems that produce themselves in a ceaseless way. Thus, it can be said that an autopoietic system is at the same time the producer and the product.
In Maturana’s viewpoint, the term "autopoiesis" expresses what he called "the center of the constitutive dynamics of living systems". To live this dynamics in an autonomous way, living systems need to obtain resources from the environment in which they live. In other words, they are simultaneously autonomic and dependent systems. So, this condition is clearly a paradox. This self-contradictory condition cannot be adequately understood by linear thinking, according to which everything must be reduced to the binary model yes/noor/or. When dealing with living beings, things, and events, linear thinking begins by dividing them. The next step is the analysis of the separate parts. No attempts are made to look for the dynamic relationships that exists between them.
This autonomy-dependency paradox, which is a characteristic feature of living beings, is better understood when one uses a way of thinking that encompasses systems thinking (which examines the dynamic relationships between the parts) and linear thinking. This model has been proposed by French author Edgar Morin, who called it "complex thinking".
Maturana and Varela proposed an instructive metaphor that is worthwhile to recall here. In their viewpoint, living systems are self-producing machines. No other kind of machine is able to do this: their production always consists in something that is different from themselves. Since autopoietic systems are simultaneously producers and products, it could also be said that they are circular systems, that is, they work in terms of productive circularity. Maturana maintains that as long as we are not able to understand the systemic character of living cells, we will not be able to adequately understand living organisms. I reaffirm that this understanding can only be adequately provided by complex thinking. However, we live in a culture that is deeply formatted by linear thinking. This fact resulted in important consequences, some of which are very grave, as we will see later in this text.

Structure, organization, and structural determinism
As stated by Maturana and Varela, living beings are structure-determined systems. What happens to us in a given moment depends on our structure in this moment. These authors call this concept structural determinism. The structure of a given system is the way by which their components interconnect with no changes in their organization. Let us see an example related to a non-living system — a table. It can have any of its parts modified, but keeps being a table as long as these parts are left articulated. However, if we disconnect and separate them, the system can no longer be recognized as a table, because its organization is lost. Thus, we could say that the system is extinguished. In the same way, the structure of a living system changes all the time, which demonstrates that it is continuously adapting itself to the equally continuous environmental changes. Nevertheless, the loss of the organization would result in the death of the system.
Thus, organization determines the identity of a system, whereas structure determines how its parts are physically articulated. Organization identifies a system and corresponds to its general configuration. Structure shows the way parts interconnect. The moment in which a system loses its organization corresponds to the limit of its tolerance to structural changes.
The fact that living systems are submitted to structural determinism does not mean that they are foreseeable. In other words, they are determined but this does not mean that they are predetermined. As a matter of fact, since their structure changes all the time — and in congruence with the aleatory modifications of the environment —, it is not adequate to speak about predetermination. We should rather speak about circularity. In order to avoid any doubts about this issue, we would better bear in mind this detail: what happens to a system in a given moment depends on its structure in this very moment.
The world in which we live is the world that we build out of our perceptions, and it is our structure that enables us to have these perceptions. So, our world is the world that we have knowledge of. If the reality that we perceive depends on our structure — which is individual —, there are as many realities as perceiving people. This explains why the so-called purely objective knowledge is impossible: the observer is not apart from the phenomena he or she observes. Since we are determined by the way the parts of which we are made interconnet and work together (that is, by our structure), the environment can only trigger in our organisms the alterations that are determined in the structure of these organisms. A cat can only perceive the world and interact with it by means of its feline structure, not with a configuration that is does not have, as for instance the human structure. By the same token, we humans cannot see the world the same way as a cat does.
Thus, we do not have adequate arguments to affirm the reality of this objectivity which we use to be so proud of. In Maturana’s viewpoint, when someone says that he or she is objective, it means that he or she has access to a privileged worldview, and that this privilege in some way enables he or she to exercise an authority that takes for granted the obedience of everybody else who is not objective. This is one of the basis of the so-called logical reasoning.
Our conditioning leads us to see the world as an object, thus we think of ourselves as separate from it. And we go even further: through the ego, we see ourselves as observers separate from the rest of our own psyche. In order to operate such an objective proposal, it is necessary to establish a boundary between the ego and the world, the same way we did between the ego and the rest of our totality. So, since we are divided the same will happen with our knowledge, which will also result divided and limited.
This is the final result of our alleged objectivity: a fragmented and restricted worldview. It is from this position that we think of ourselves as authorized to judge everybody who does not agree with us, and condemn them as "non-objective" and "intuitive" people. In other words, departing from a fragmented and limited viewpoint, we think that is possible to arrive to the truth and show it to our peers — a truth that we imagine that is the same for everybody.

Structural coupling
According to Maturana and Varela, living systems and the environment change in a congruent way. In their comparison, the foot is always adjusting to the shoe and vice versa. This is a good manner to say that the environment triggers changes in the structure of systems, and systems answer by triggering changes in the environment and so on, in a circular way. When a system influences another, the influenced one answers by influencing back, that is, it develops a compensatory behavior. The first organism then proceeds to act again over the second one, which replies once more — and so on, as long as the two systems keep going in this coupling condition.
We already know that living systems are determined by their structure. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that when a system is in structural coupling mode with another one, at a given moment of this relationship the conduct of one of them is a constant source of stimuli for compensatory answers from the other. These are, therefore, transactional and recurrent events. When a system influences another, the influenced one sustains a structural change — a deformation. On replying, the influenced system gives to the influencer an interpretation of how this influence was perceived. A dialogue is therefore established. In other words, a consensual context is started, through which structurally coupled organisms interact. This interaction is a linguistic domain.
To put it in another way, in this transactional ambit the conduct of each organism corresponds to a description of the behavior of its partner. Each one "tells" to the other how its "message" has been perceived. This explains why there is no competition between natural systems. What exists is cooperation. However, when culture meets nature — as happens with human beings — things change.
I reaffirm that there is no competition (in the predatory sense of the term) between non-human living beings. When men refer to some animals as predators, they are anthropomorphizing them, that is, projecting on them a condition that is peculiar to humans. Since they do not compete between themselves, non-human living systems do not "dictate" each other norms of conduct. If natural conditions keep unchanged, there are no authoritarian commandments nor unconditional obediency between them. Living beings are autonomous systems. Its conduct is determined according to their own structures, that is, according to the way they interpret influences that come from the environment. They are not subdued systems, that is, they are not unconditionally obedient to outside determinations.
In the case of human societies, in which the prevailing conditions are not only those provided by nature, this is exactly what marketing and other means of mass conditioning try (and in many cases succeed) to do with entire populations. Thus, it is possible to reach to mass-production of subdued people, provided conditioning stimuli are widespread and constant. This is what psychoanalyst Félix Guattari calls subjectivities production. With this concept, he introduces the idea of an industrial, mass-produced, capitalism-formatted subjectivity. This is the result of the operation of huge conditioning systems, by means of which capital (today in its neoliberal triumphant phase) builds and maintains its immense market of power. In other words, all these efforts are directed to the consolidation and continuing operation of violence against the most basic of the characteristics of living systems — autopoiesis.
The notion that living systems are structurally determined is of utmost importance for many areas of human activity. In psychotherapy, for instance, transference and countertransference can be understood as manifestations of this structural coupling, in which changes sustained by the client are determined only by his or her structure. They cannot, therefore, be considered as caused or produced in any way by the therapist. As a consequence, it is very important to keep in mind that the consensual domain that results from structural coupling of autopoietic systems is indeed a linguistic context — but not in the mere sense of transmission of information.

Sociocultural extension
Maturana and Varela pointed out that Darwin’s evolutive theory transcended the simple diversity of living beings and their origin and extended to many areas, as for example the culture. As we know, this theoretical proposal emphasizes the dimensions of species, aptitude and natural selection. These notions are nowadays the basis for social darwinism, which is the utilization of Darwin’s ideas to justify predatory competition between men. In this sense, it is a fundamentalist interpretation.
In the same way, the idea of transcendence has been used to justify social exclusion and allied phenomena, as political and economic exploitation. On account of this, individuals would have a very small meaning and value as compared to species. As a consequence, people are supposed to give everything (which includes their lives) for the benefit of perpetuation of species — but the opposite is by no means always true.
When speaking about this issue, Maturana and Varela recall the following arguments, which have been largely applied to our societies:
a) the evolution is the evolution of human species;
b) according to the law of natural selection, the more fit will survive;
c) competition leads to evolution, and this applies to the human beings too;
d) those who did not survive were not able to contribute to the history of human species.
Summing up, individuals should let natural phenomena evolve and stay in a kind of passive attitude — everything for species sake. 
However, the same authors state that these arguments should not prevail when one needs to justify the subordination of the individual to the species, because biologic phenomenology occurs in the individual, not in species. In other words, these arguments should not prevail because biologic phenomenology belongs to the part, not to the whole. Since the way of being of a given individual is determined by its structure — which is autopoietic —, there should not exist discardable individuals, either in relation to species, society, mankind, and any other instances, important or transcendent as they may be.

Ordinations, societies and individuals
In nature — as stated by Maturana and Varela —, there is a tendency to the constitution of increasingly complex autopoietic systems. This occurs through the coupling of simpler autopoietic unities to build up more complex organizations, in which the hierarchy principle is the rule: a system is inside another one, that is superior to it; this one is, by its turn, inside another one, that is superior to it; and so on. This happens in multicellular organisms and, according to Maturana and Varela, maybe in the cell itself.
The main question is to know whether this circumstance could be applicable to human societies. If so, they could be seen as first-order autopoietic systems. In this line of reasoning, people’s autopoiesis would be subordinated to the autopoiesis of the societies in which they live. Thus, it could be ethically justifiable the sacrifice of individuals for the sake of societies. In these circumstances — as Maturana and Varela say —, it would very much difficult for human beings to act on the autopoietic dynamics of the societies to which they belong. I certainly agree with this argument, and also think that it is possible to reinforce it with some more considerations. In order to be able to develop them, I will stay in the domain of biology.
We know that an autopoietic system produces itself utilizing resources from the environment. In order to be able to go on with this process, a human organism, for instance, keeps discarding its worn-out cells. These dead parts are continuously replaced for new ones, and so the process continues while the organism keeps alive, that is, autopoietic. However, as far as it is alive, no autopoietic unity discards any of their living components. There are no prescindible parts in natural systems.
As a result — and always keeping the focus on the biologic context —, a society could only be considered autopoietic while satisfying the autopoiesis of all the individuals that constitute it. Thus, a society that discards young and productive individuals (by means of strategies as production of subjectivities, wars, genocide, social exclusion and other forms of violence) is a self-mutilating and therefore pathologic system.
If men were only natural beings, their autopoiesis would obviously be operated only in the natural way. The fact that men are also cultural beings lead them to operate their autopoiesis in a different manner — different and pathologic, because it is a self-aggressive one. Culture conditions individuals, which by their turn reciprocate, and so on, in a circularity that cannot be understood in terms of linear thinking. Why is this so? We know that there are no single-caused phenomena in nature — and this case is no exception. Even so, one can affirm that the main cause of this dysfunction is the prevailing mental model of our culture — linear thinking. We are deeply conditioned by this model, which stimulates immediatism and assign a high value to war and competition. This is the main reason by which our societies are pathologic living systems.
It is very important to repeat that what makes our societies behave like this is not the cultural dimension in itself, but the kind of culture under which we live, that emphasizes the belief that predatory competition is a good, healthy and ethically justifiable way of life. Its most visible practical manifestation is competitivity — the compulsion to not only winning, but also eliminating our opponents, the compulsion of leading to the last consequences aggressivity, implacability and the need to exclude.
All of us are to some extent influenced by the unidimensionality of linear thinking, which leads us to think that the most pleasant side of a victory is to defeat someone. This the so-called zero sum game: an interaction in which for someone’s victory to be satisfactory the defeat of the opponent is an indispensable condition. In a climate like this, people, things, and events cannot be complementary: something must necessarily be removed and discarded so that something else could be put in its place. This situation may even be inevitable in some specific contexts, but it certainly does not have the wideness that we imagine.
In any case, the idea of the other as an invariable adversary, as an enemy to exterminate, is one of the fundamental features of the competitivity of our culture. Through it — and specially in the domain of business and corporations —, we live our daily paranoia. It is a worldview that excludes the possibility that the other could be momentarily defeated by one’s competence, but preserved in order to be capable, in the future, to learn how to win, that is, to learn how to be competent. The ideal of competitivity, however, is to win in such a way that the winner could be always the first and the only one — as if we could exist without our human fellows, and, even worse, as if anybody could be the first and the only one without being also the last one.
Let us say the same thing in another way. Some paragraphs ago, I wrote that in nature there is no competitivity. What exists is competence. As noted by Maturana, when two animals meet before the same piece of food and only one eats, this happens because in that specific moment one of them was the most competent to do so. But this does not mean that the animal that was unable to eat is doomed to be, from that moment on, forever forbidden to eat until death arrives. This does not happen in nature.
However, when circumstances involve the competitivity of human culture, the individual who succeeds to eat do not satisfy himself with this fact: he or her needs to make sure that the one who was not able to eat must cease forever to be a threat. In other words, competitive men usually do not feel sure of their competence, so they have the need to get rid of whoever could jeopardise them. In other words, when men cannot trust in themselves as living beings, their peers must be eliminated as soon as possible. But even so — let us insist on this point —, this cannot be ascribed to the cultural dimension in itself: it plays such a role in a culture like ours, which do not know how to deal with aleatority and ceaseless change. And these conditions, as we know, constitute the very essence of life. In other words, we do not know how to deal with autopoiesis — that is why we feel ourselves in need to aggress it and to deny its reality.
It is obvious that these considerations do not invalidate the concept of autopoiesis. On the contrary, it stands even more validated by the demonstration of its efficacy in once more diagnosing the self-aggressive condition of we humans — a condition that we have extended to our societies. Let us recall now the question asked by Maturana and Varela: to what extent human social phenomenology may be seen as a biological phenomenology? The above reflections have already answered it: social phenomenology can surely be seen as a biological phenomenlogy — but it is a pathologic condition.

Values and depreciations
Let us add some more reflections. Martin Heidegger, among others, states that individuals have the tendency to alienate themselves to the things of the world. This makes them forget the Being. This alienation leads us to value things in an excessive way and then to depreciate ourselves and, by extension, do deny the humanity of our peers. In other words, people see each other as trading goods. This is a well-known social feature.
In this same direction, our need for transcendence is also depreciated. Let us consider the quest for spiritual values that could guide and justify human existence. In societies as ours, in which people are seen as mere objects, such values tend to be excessively idealized, and this further increases the distance between them and ordinary people. As a result, we will do everything we can to preserve such values, which includes an increased contempt for the lack of transcendentality of our peers, and they will answer in the same way. Psychologist Emílio Romero has an illustrative phrase about this issue: "It is not easy to love simple, limited, contradictory, oscillating, flesh and bone mortals like ourselves. It is easier do admire distant idols, maybe protectors in their unattainable majesty".
As history shows, this attitude has produced regrettable results. Everybody knows about societies in which the marked inclination toward spirituality has produced and still produces legions of socially excluded. On the other hand, we know that the excessive tendency toward materiality has produced and still produces the same legions of indigents. It seems that the excess of non-linearity of thought is as noxious to autopoiesis (that is, for life) as the excess of linearity (that is, of rationality).
Furthermore, a new phenomena has appeared and consolidates itself at a fast rate. I am referring to over-idealization of money. As we know, the capital has been since a long time the basic value of our culture. For the past several years, however, it has been very easy to idealize it even more. This is due to the ascent of the so-called "volatile money", represented by the intangible ciphers that circulate electronically through the global markets. This enhanced "transcendentalization" of money has been adding, now in a vertiginous way, more fuel to the bonfire in which the socially excluded are mercilessly burned out. This discardability of people — which is the basic manifestation of the pathology of our culture — is quickly increasing as years go on. Thus, a truly autopoietic society cannot coexist with the predatory competition which is the outstanding mark of our culture.
Summing up, these reflections lead to the following conclusions:
a) As proposed by Maturana and Varela, autopoiesis is indeed a concept that resolve and clearly defines the problem of biologic phenomenology.
b) According to this viewpoint, social phenomenology can be seen as a biological phenomenology, because society is composed of living beings. As a consequence, the idea of autopoiesis, when applied as an instrument of social analysis, confirms the conclusion already established by other means of investigation — that our societies are self-mutilating, pathologic systems.
c) A sizeable part of this pathology may be explained by the fact that the mind of our culture is formatted by linear thinking, which states that causes stand immediately before effects or are very close to them, and maintains that these relationships always occur in the same context of space and time.
d) This mental model is obviously necessary for the understanding and the practice of the mechanical circumstances of life (material production, ingestion, processing, excretion, and exchange of tangible goods), but it is not sufficient to understand and to deal with the events of life that involve feelings and emotions.
e) As a result, the linear mental model is only adequate as a basis for the conventional market economy, that underestimates or simply discards the non-mechanical dimensions of human existence. As a consequence, this economy keeps creating scenarios in which the integral human being (that is, the complex human being) is always divided, used and finally excluded.
f) Therefore, we are talking about the consequences of an oversimplification of human condition, which pretends that it is possible to resolve systemic problems by means of a linear and unidimensional mental model.
g) As a result, increasingly morbid societies have been built, which insist in disrespecting the autopoiesis of their components. We live in communities that describe themselves as always looking for a good quality of life. However, when observed with a more rigorous look, what can be seen is that this quality is accessible only to a minority. Furthermore, the costs of this quality are dangerously (and increasingly) high, because it keeps generating a dreadful series of by-products — which begin with social exclusion and end in death.


BOHM, David. Thought as a system. London: Routledge, 1994.
BOHM, David. On dialogue. London: Routledge, 1998.
GUATTARI, Félix. Chaosmose; un nouvel paradigme esthétique. Paris: College International d’Études Transdisciplinaires, 1991.
GUATTARI, Félix, ROLNIK, Suely. Cartografias do desejo. Petrópolis: Vozes, 1996.
HEIDEGGER, Martin. Being and time. New York: Harper & Row, 1962.
MATURANA, Humberto. El sentido de lo humano. Santiago: Dolmen Ediciones, 1993.
MATURANA, Humberto. Emoções e linguagem na educação e na política. Belo Horizonte: Editora UFMG, 1998.
MATURANA, Humberto, VARELA, Francisco J. Autopoiesis and cognition; the organization of the living. Boston: Reidel, 1980.
MORIN, Edgar. Introduction à la pensée complexe. Paris: EST Éditeurs, 1990.
MORIN, Edgar. La complexité humaine. Paris: Flammarion, 1994.
ROMERO, Emílio. O inquilino do imaginário; formas de alienação e psicopatologia. São Paulo: Lemos, 1997.
RUIZ, Alfredo. Humberto Maturana e a psicoterapia. Thot (São Paulo) 70: 61-69, 1999.
VARELA, Francisco J. Sobre a competência ética. Lisboa: edições 70, s.d.
VARELA, Francisco J., THOMPSON, Evan, ROSCH, Eleanor. The embodied mind; cognitive science and human experience. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1997.
VARELA, Francisco, MATURANA, Humberto, URIBE, R. Autopoiesis: the organization of living systems, its characterization and a model. Biosystems 5:187-196, 1974.

Humberto Mariotti is a pychiatrist and psychotherapist. He is also the coordinator of the Studies Group of Complexity and Systems Thinking of the Palas Athena Association, in São Paulo, Brazil.

lunes, 16 de septiembre de 2013

Yasuní: carta a Correa

13 de septiembre de 2013

__Organizaciones españolas entregan una misiva para pedir que el 
gobierno ecuatoriano defienda el gran parque nacional y abra una 
consulta popular_
**Una decena de organizaciones se han dirigido al presidente de Ecuador, 
Rafael Correa para rechazar la explotación de reservas de petróleo en el 
Yasuní-ITT . En unacarta 
<http://www.ecologistasenaccion.org/article26414.html>, que se entrega 
hoy en la Embajada de Ecuador en Madrid, los grupos responden a los 
argumentos defendidos para la explotación y expresan su decepción ante 
una apuesta que contradice la defensa del "buen vivir". Los gobiernos 
europeos tienen una gran deuda ecológica que deben asumir, reconocen las 
firmantes, pero eso no exime al ecuatoriano de responsabilidad, apuntan.*

ASPA, Ecologistas en Acción, En Lucha, 
Entrepueblos-Entrepobles-Herriarte-Entrepobos, ISF-Madrid, 
ISF-Catalunya, Izquierda Anticapitalista, ODG, Sodepaz-Balamil y 
Veterinarios sin Fronteras figuran como firmantes de una carta escrita 
en coordinación con grupos ecuatorianos.

En la misiva destacan que cualquier futuro accidente afectará a amplias 
partes del Parque Nacional Yasuní ya que es un humedal. Esto será 
inevitable, pues no existe ninguna tecnología segura, como han mostrado 
los repetidos accidentes petroleros. Una empresa española, Repsol, ya 
está operando en el Yasuní, dónde ya ha provocado derrames.

Las organizaciones firmantes de la carta recuerdan que en el bloque ITT 
hay poblaciones indígenas en aislamiento voluntario. Además, algunas de 
las poblaciones indígenas del Yasuní son pueblos semi-nómadas que hacen 
una utilización extensiva de su territorio y entran en el ITT. De este 
modo, las prospecciones en el Yasuní estarían en contra de la 
Constitución Ecuatoriana que, en el artículo 57, afirma: "Los 
territorios de los pueblos en aislamiento voluntario son de posesión 
ancestral irreductible e intangible, y en ellos estará vedada todo tipo 
de actividad extractiva. (...) La violación de estos derechos 
constituirá delito de etnocidio, que será tipificado por la ley".

Rafael Correa ha sostenido que los recursos del petróleo son necesarios 
para el desarrollo de Ecuador. Sin embargo, en su carrera política ha 
hecho bandera de la defensa del buen vivir, un concepto que es 
referencia en todo el planeta. Medidas como la explotación del ITT nada 
tienen que ver con la promoción del buen vivir, sino con una política 
desarrollista que, una vez más, explota a la naturaleza y a las 
poblaciones indígenas.

En lo que sí dan las organizaciones toda la razón al Gobierno 
ecuatoriano es en su denuncia de la falta de asunción de sus 
responsabilidades por parte de los Gobiernos europeos, entre ellos el 
español, respecto a la deuda ecológica que tenemos contraída con América 
Latina. En este sentido, recalcan que su postura no es insolidaria 
pidiendo que se haga en Ecuador algo distinto de lo que piden aquí, pues 
estos colectivos están involucrados en luchas similares: oposición a la 
extracción de gas mediante fractura hidráulica o de petróleo de aguas 
ultraprofundas. Es más, a diferencia de lo que consideran justo en 
Ecuador, en el Estado español se deben dejar bajo tierra los 
combustibles fósiles sin ninguna compensación económica.

Finalmente, las organizaciones consideran que no es Ecuador quien más 
tiene que hacer en la lucha contra el cambio climático y un nuevo modelo 
energético, sino los territorios que han tenido un mayor consumo 
energético histórico, entre los que destaca claramente la UE. Sin 
embargo, Ecuador también tiene responsabilidad en el avance hacia un 
mundo más habitable. A nivel mundial es imprescindible que dos tercios 
de las reservas mundiales de combustibles fósiles se dejen sin extraer 
para prevenir niveles catastróficos de cambio climático. En su lugar se 
debería invertir en el cambio del modelo y en fuentes renovables de energía.

Por todo ello los colectivos españoles se suman a la petición de las 
organizaciones ecuatorianas de realizar una consulta social vinculante 
sobre la explotación del ITT, a la que añaden la necesidad de que los 
Estados europeos, empezando por el español, asuman su deuda ecológica. 
En el mismo sentido, también apoyan a las organizaciones ecuatorianas en 
su solicitud de suspensión de otras iniciativas extractivas que se están 
dando en Ecuador.

La carta puede consultarse 
Para más información: Abel Esteban: 659 383 159 / Luis González 
Reyes:626 682 685



        */Ecologistas en Acción de Aragón/*
C/ Gavín 6
50002 Zaragoza
T.: 629 13 96 09 - 629 13 96 80


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** Weekly Research Highlights
September 13th, 2013

As we ramp up to a full public launch, Sciencescape (http://sciencescape.org) will
be bringing you snapshots of key papers published in the biomedical sciences. Each
week, our team of scientific editors at Sciencescape (http://sciencescape.org) will
filter through the overwhelming volume of new research to highlight and summarize
important work you need to know about.

Papers are chosen to showcase breakthroughs in trending fields like cancer
genomics, synthetic biology, and stem cells. Our first review of Weekly Research
Highlights is attached below - we hope that you are inspired to share it with your

** Human Genetics [AR]
** Metachromatic leukodystrophy patients benefit from new gene therapy approach

Scientists led by Alessandra Biffi and Luigi Naldini of Milan, Italy, have developed
a gene therapy protocol to treat metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD), an inherited
lysosomal storage disease caused by ARSA gene mutations that result in a deficiency
of the enzyme arylsulfatase A (ARSA). Children with MLD experience severe
progressive motor and cognitive impairment, and many die within a few years of
symptom onset. In this study, the researchers used an approach on human patients
that they showed was successful in mice a few years ago. They removed hematopoietic
stem cells from three children, transferred lentiviruses modified to contain the
ARSA gene into the cells, and put the cells back into the patients. Although the
children in the trial were presymptomatic, they were biochemically characterized as
being ARSA deficient, carried mutations associated with late-infantile MLD, and had
one or more older siblings with late-infantile MLD. Following the ARSA gene transfer
therapy, the patients produced normal amounts of the ARSA protein and showed no
manifestation of the disease seven to 21 months beyond their predicted age of
disease onset. While the therapy appears promising, longer follow-ups will be
necessary to fully assess the safety and success of the approach.

** Original article A. Biffi, E. Montini, L. Lorioli, M. Cesani, F. Fumagalli, T.
Plati, C. Baldoli, et al., Lentiviral hematopoietic stem cell gene therapy benefits
metachromatic leukodystrophy, Science 341 (6148), p. 864, 2013.
doi:10.1126/science.1233158 (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/341/6148/1233158)

** Chemical Biology [JMW]
** New small-molecule melanopsin antagonists discovered

Melanopsin is a photopigment of the opsin family of G protein-coupled receptors. It
is expressed in a subset of ganglion cells of the retina and mediates a variety of
non-visual responses to light, including pupil diameter, sleep, and circadian
rhythms. In a collaboration between Lundbeck Research (NJ, USA) and the Salk
Institute for Biological Studies (CA, USA), researchers screened 80,000 compounds
for activity against melanopsin. Several sulfonamide-containing compounds were
initially identified as showing promising antagonistic activity, and further
analogues were either purchased or synthesized. Six of the so-called opsinamides
inhibited melanopsin photoactivation, and two of them were evaluated further owing
to their drug-like properties and lack of interaction with rhodopsin (a related
opsin responsible for visual responses). In vivo studies in mice demonstrated that
opsinamides specifically and reversibly modified melanopsin-mediated light
responses, without affecting
the related rod- and cone-mediated function. The identification of potent, highly
specific synthetic melanopsin antagonists opens the possibility of treating
light-modulated disorders of the central nervous system, such as migraine and

** Original article K. A. Jones, M. Hatori, L. S. Mure, J. R. Bramley, R.
Artymyshyn, S.-P. Hong, M. Marzabadi, et al., Small-molecule antagonists of
melanopsin-mediated phototransduction, Nat. Chem. Biol., published online 25 August
2013, doi:10.1038/nchembio.1333

** Synthetic Biology [JMW]
** Escherichia coli engineered for improved tolerance to short-chain alcohols

Biofuels obtained from engineered microbes are attracting much interest as possible
alternatives to fossil fuels. Unfortunately, some of the desired fuel products are
actually toxic to the bacteria and yeast engineered to produce them, limiting their
growth and, in turn, limiting biofuel production. The Tullman-Ercek group at the
University of California, Berkeley, reports the engineering of Escherichia coli to
confer improved tolerance to n-butanol, isobutanol, and other straight-chain
alcohols. Through a directed evolution strategy, the researchers generated variants
of the E. coli inner membrane efflux pump protein AcrB. Efflux proteins actively
pump unwanted (toxic) substances out of the cell. The AcrB pump variants generated
were able to act on non-natural substrates, conferring greater tolerance to many
short-chain alcohols by actively transporting them out of the cell.  Directed
evolution of membrane transporters for specificity to non-native substrates is a
tool for controlling small molecule concentration gradients across the cell, whether
for biofuel or other chemical production.

** Original article M. A. Fisher, S. Boyarskiy, M. R. Yamada, N. Kong, S. Bauer, D.
Tullman-Ercek.  Enhancing tolerance to short-chain alcohols by engineering the
Escherichia coli AcrB efflux pump to secrete the non-native substrate n-butanol, ACS
Synth. Biol., published online 30 August 2013, doi:10.1021/sb400065q

** Stem Cells [SP]
** Building a brain

The extraordinary complexity of the human brain makes its study very appealing, yet
incredibly difficult. Unsurprisingly, news that the Knoblich lab have cultivated
brain-like structures—termed cerebral organoids—from human pluripotent stem cells,
has been met with much excitement. The researchers attribute their success to a new
culture protocol, which involves providing the cells with a gel scaffold and
maintaining the developing tissue in a spinning, rather than stationary, bioreactor.
Although only about 4mm in size, cerebral organoids are organized much like the
developing human brain; researchers demonstrated forebrain, midbrain, and hindbrain
regions, as well as other more-specialized brain structures that include cerebral
cortex, choroid plexus, and retina. Strikingly, neurons present in the cerebral
cortex showed evidence of electrical activity. To demonstrate their utility for the
study of brain development, Knoblich and his team cultured cerebral organoids from a
patient with microcephaly, a disorder characterized by markedly reduced brain size.
These organoids recapitulated the disease much more accurately than mouse models
have previously been able to. This key advance in the culture of brain tissue holds
great potential for the study of brain development and disorders in the future.

** Original article M. A. Lancaster, M. Renner, C.-A. Martin, D. Wenzel, L. S.
Bicknell, M. E. Hurles, T. Homfray, J. M. Penninger, A. P. Jackson, and J. A.
Knoblich, Cerebral organoids model human brain development and microcephaly, Nature,
published online 28 August 2013, doi:10.1038/nature12517

** Developmental Biology [SP]
** Muscling in on the gut

The gut lining is a highly folded structure comprising numerous projections called
villi, which provide a large surface area for optimal absorption of nutrients. In
humans, villi are formed in three discrete steps—longitudinal ridges develop, then
fold into zigzags, which subsequently transform into individual villi. New findings
from Cliff Tabin’s laboratory reveal a link between these morphological stages and
sequential differentiation of the surrounding smooth muscle. The research team
report that a circular layer of smooth muscle forms around the gut tube during the
first stage of villi formation, which compresses the underlying tissue, causing
luminal folds to develop. Differentiation of a second layer of muscle, situated
longitudinally, exerts pressures that cause the previously formed ridges to buckle
into zigzags, and the subsequent development of a third longitudinal layer of muscle
is responsible for the final patterning of villi. Blocking smooth muscle contraction
did not affect morphology, suggesting that peristalsis is not involved. With help
from the Applied Math Lab at Harvard University, the investigators constructed a
mathematical model of the process, which could be used to simulate the different
patterns of villi formation that are observed between species.

** Original article A. E. Shyer, T. Tallinen, N. L. Nerurker, Z. Wei, E. S. Gil, D.
L. Kaplan, C. J. Tabin, and L. Mahadevan, Villification: how the gut gets its villi,
Science, published online 29 August 2013, doi:10.1126/science.1238842

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New Biocultural map layer

Hi E-ANTHers, We recently introduced for the Google+ community Biocultural
Landscapes & Seascapes (BCLS), what is called a #minchuzu google map layer,
see here
This new layer of information for BCLS has huge potential for education and
science purposes, as it allows you to automatically transform your posts in
BCLS (geotagged photos, geotagged science papers or geotagged biocultural
field work) into a local position on a google map layer closely linked to
the google+ BCLS community. This is very interesting to help scientists,
managers or other people interested in geographically discovering and
understanding science information/references accumulated around the
biocultural functioning of a given area of the world.
However, members of the BCLS community (especially ethnobiologists,
biocultural scientists and media specialists) quickly realized there were
ethical issues associated with this mapping project, as it is built on
geotagged photos + local biocultural information (see comments of this post
https://plus.google.com/102918354484271170378/posts/1KdFoynrd8k). We
discovered that the #minchuzu  layer system that combines geotagged info,
photo, map location, (potentially face tagging) ... raises new problems that
are still not specified by the +International Society of Ethnobiology. We
are taking this problem very seriously in BCLS. We started a draft of the
rules that should be followed in the BCLS community for posting standalone
photos in general on BCLS, AND geotagged photos/science papers (+ associated
biocultural information) in particular on the #minchuzu  map layer
(https://plus.google.com/107478410160659334381/posts/8uMtmD6bXKf). However
we do not pretend the rules are perfect as this is a fairly novel and
evolving problem related to technological changes. We therefore need your
help to build this code of ethics to help members in BCLS respect the life
of local people and associated biocultural context. We need two things:

- 1) People with experience in photographing local people in their
biocultural context for science and media/public outreach that could help
improve the draft of these rules (including deleting some parts of concerns)
if they can.

- 2) We would like to give a specialist on these issues a leading /
moderating role around the ethics and education around those issues in BCLS.
Because it is a new and evolving problem (due to Google technological
advances) that is not specified yet by main board societies. I see the
position of this specialist as an opportunity to build connections with the
board of ethics of these societies (e.g., +International Society of
Ethnobiology), in order to help them improving international recommendations
on this problem, and vise versa to help us improving the rules of BCLS in
this regard.

You can help working on this project on the BCLS community here:

Just follow these 3 steps to join the BCLS community:

1. Create a Google+ account as explained in this video
2. Click on https://plus.google.com/communities/110834970079444098643
3. Click on the red icon "join community" � Welcome! you are now a BCLS

Kind regards,
The BCLS community manager

Dr. Jean-Baptiste Pichancourt
Office:  +61 (0)7  3833 5680

CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences
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miércoles, 11 de septiembre de 2013

La Danza Oriental

Autor: Centro Wutang  |  Publicado en: Septiembre de 2008

Sus orígenes se sitúan hace aproximadamente hace 5.000 años y se asocia con rituales de fertilidad femenina practicados en honor de Isis, la luna (YIN), expresión máxima del poder creador femenino.En la mitología egipcia el vientre desnudo de la bailarina recibía la energía del sol (YANG), arquetipo masculino, por el que era fecundado.

Es una danza que no requiere
movimientos bruscos, hipertensiones
o grandes contorsiones, son
movimientos naturales y los
beneficios físicos que nos aporta
son abundantes.
Las mujeres que bailan esta danza consiguen fortalecer y flexibilizar todos los músculos de su cuerpo, captando energías positivas, y armonizándose internamente facilitando así las funciones biológicas propias del sexo femenino.
Hemos comprobado que se sueltan tensiones profundas de las que muchas veces no tenemos consciencia, dulcificamos la mirada, adquirimos estilo propio y nos envolvemos por una especie de aura misteriosa despertando el interés de las personas que nos rodean.
Es la única danza con la que conseguimos disfrutar con nosotras mismas, nos autoafirmamos, llegando a sentir una mezcla de placer y euforia al mismo tiempo, despejamos nuestra mente y sin darnos cuenta cultivamos exquisitez, belleza y delicadeza.

Las bailarinas despiden una especie
de aura misteriosa despertando el
interés de las personas que las rodean
Es una danza que no requiere movimientos bruscos, hipertensiones o grandes contorsiones, es decir son movimientos naturales del propio cuerpo y los beneficios físicos que nos aporta son abundantes:
• Elimina la rigidez y los nudos de tensión causados por estrés, cansancio o sedentarismo.
• Mejora la circulación eliminando más toxinas y ayuda a activar el metabolismo.
• Amaina los dolores menstruales gracias a los movimientos pélvicos que masajean toda la zona y hacen que el cuerpo trabaje mejor también a nivel digestivo. Antiguamente, las mujeres árabes bailaban durante el parto para facilitarlo, recibiendo otro de sus nombres: Danza de la Maternidad.
• Elimina malos hábitos posturales, ya que esta danza busca el eje y el equilibrio de una forma relajada y natural.
• Evita la artrosis, ya que armoniza la función de los músculos con los cartílagos y las articulaciones.
• Quema calorías, se calcula aproximadamente que entre 250 y 300 por sesión de una hora.

Neurociencia de la danza

Las imágenes cerebrales revelan parte de la compleja coreografía neuronal que subyace bajo la aptitud para el baile.
  • Brown, Steven
  • Parsons, Lawrence M.  
  • http://www.investigacionyciencia.es/investigacion-y-ciencia/numeros/2008/9/neurociencia-de-la-danza-526
  • Es tan natural el sentido del ritmo, que solemos darlo por descontado. Al escuchar música llevamos el compás con los pies y movemos el cuerpo, a menudo de forma inconsciente. Este instinto corresponde a un rasgo evolutivo propio de la especie humana. No se presenta en ningún otro mamífero ni, probablemente, en ninguna otra clase del reino animal. Las aptitudes para esa sincronización inconsciente residen en la base de la danza, confluencia de movimiento, ritmo y representación gestual. La danza corresponde al ejercicio colectivo más sincronizado que existe; exige un tipo de coordinación interpersonal en el espacio y el tiempo que apenas se da en otros contextos sociales.
    Aun cuando la danza constituye una forma fundamental de la expresión humana, la neurociencia no le había prestado particular atención hasta hace poco, cuando empezaron a examinarse imágenes cerebrales de bailarines aficionados y profesionales. Entre otras cuestiones, se pretendía averiguar de qué manera se mueve un bailarín por el espacio, cómo controla sus pasos y cómo aprende coreografías complejas. Los resultados permiten entrever la intrincada coordinación mental que se requiere para ejecutar hasta los pasos más sencillos.  
  • http://co-creating-cultures.com/es/?p=2751 

Dance and the Brain

By Scott Grafton, M.D., and Emily Cross, M.S., University of California at Santa Barbara 


The ubiquity of dance across cultures, ages, and history make it an “embedded” art form. Most of us already have significant dance experience by adulthood. This commonality of dance, therefore, shifted our research away from normative studies that attempt to show that dance is good for a person or their brain, that it makes one smarter, is worth learning, or that some types of dance make one smarter than others.
Instead, our studies concerned the mechanisms that allow us to learn to dance, and the concurrent learning-related changes in the brain. Prior behavioral research on observational learning suggests that physical and observational learning share many common features. Neuroimaging research on action observation has identified brain regions, including premotor, inferior parietal, and temporal regions, that are similarly active when performing actions and when watching others perform the same actions. The present study investigated the sensitivity of this “action observation network” (AON) to learning that is based on observation, compared to physical rehearsal.
Participants were trained for five consecutive days on dance sequences that were set to music videos in a popular video game context. They spent half of daily training physically rehearsing one set of sequences, and the other half passively watching a different set of sequences. Participants were scanned with fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) prior to, and immediately following, the week of training.
Results indicate that premotor and parietal components of the AON responded more to trained, relative to untrained, dance sequences. These results suggest that activity in these brain regions represents the neural resonance between observed and embodied actions. Viewing dance sequences that were only watched (and not danced) also was associated with significant activity in the brain’s premotor areas, inferior parietal lobule, and basal ganglia. These imaging data, combined with behavioral data on a post-scanning dance test, demonstrate the emergence of action resonance processes in the human brain that are based on purely observational learning, and identify commonalities in the neural substrates for physical and observational learning.
A critical outcome of our research is that learning by observing leads to action resonance and prediction that is the same as occurs with physical learning. This strong link between learning by doing and learning by observing at the neural level might benefit from early exposure to dance, where the consistencies between training methods could be acquired.


Many avenues exist for learning dance. For example, learning how to flamenco dance could be achieved in several different ways. One could learn the steps by following a verbal description of where, when, and how to move through space, by following step patterns traced on the floor, by trial and error, or by observing a dancer who knows the movements and performing the movements alongside this individual.
Behavioral research on action learning conducted during the past half-century suggests that the final option, learning from observing and simultaneously reproducing another individual’s movements, results in the quickest and most accurate learning (e.g., (Sheffield, 1961; Schmidt, 1975; Bandura, 1977, 1986; Blandin et al., 1999; Blandin and Proteau, 2000; Badets et al., 2006).
This past research has demonstrated that not only is observation of a model helpful for learning (Blandin et al., 1999), but also that physical practice is more beneficial than mere observation of new movements (Badets et al., 2006). The current research was directed at exploring the separate and combined contributions that observing and practicing have on acquiring a novel movement sequence. Additionally, using functional neuroimaging, we characterized the neural underpinnings of observational learning, with or without the added benefit of physical practice.
Early behavioral investigations by Sheffield (1961) led to the proposal that observation of a model improved motor learning by means of providing a “perceptual blueprint,” or a standard of reference for how the task to be learned should be performed. Carroll and Bandura elaborated upon these ideas by proposing that this “perceptual blueprint” improves learning by providing a means for detecting and correcting performance errors as well (Carroll and Bandura, 1987, 1990). Behavioral studies that compare observational and physical learning support this idea (Zelaznik and Spring, 1976; Doody et al., 1985; Carroll and Bandura, 1990; Lee et al., 1990; Blandin and Proteau, 2000) (for a review, see Hodges, 2007).
In one such study, Blandin and Proteau (2000) asked participants to perform a task that involved executing a speeded out-and-back movement pattern with the right arm while avoiding obstacles. Participants either physically rehearsed without observing a model perform the action, observed a novice performing the task before attempting to perform the task themselves, or observed an expert performing the task before attempting the task themselves. Observation of either type of model enabled participants to develop error detection and correction skills as effectively as physical practice.
Other work by Blandin and colleagues (1999) establishes that the quality of the model matters. Beneficial learning comes from observation of an expert model and not a novice model during the acquisition of a novel motor task (Blandin, Lhuisset, & Proteau, 1999). Recent data from psychophysics and EMG (electromyography) data lend additional evidence in support of observational learning, as reported in a study by Mattar and Gribble (2005). They demonstrated that participants’ learning performance of a novel, complex motor task was facilitated after they observed another individual learning to perform that same task, compared to watching another individual perform the task without learning, or learning to perform a different task (Mattar and Gribble, 2005).
What follows from these and other studies (Barzouka et al., 2007; Bouquet et al., 2007) is the idea that observational and physical learning have similar outcomes on behavior, as evidenced by the outcome of training. However, as Blandin and colleagues note (1999), “this does not mean that all cognitive processes involved during physical practice are also taking place during observation or that observation does not engage participants in some unique processes not taking place during physical practice” (p. 977).
The work presented above provides a behavioral foundation for exploring areas of overlap and divergence between observational and physical learning. However, it is difficult to determine with only behavioral procedures the degree of correspondence of cognitive processes subserving these two types of learning. Behavioral and EMG (electromyography) studies (study of electrical activity of both muscle and nerve) alone cannot satisfactorily address the underlying neural mechanisms, whereas the addition of functional neuroimaging enables us to determine whether observational and physical learning modify the same, or different, neural substrates.

Research Design

In the current research, we investigated this hypothesized overlap of cognitive mechanisms for observational and physical learning through concurrent use of behavioral and neuroimaging procedures. If we found that both types of learning engage the same areas of the brain, then we can infer that both observational and physical learning engage comparable cognitive processes. Conversely, the emergence of different areas of neural activity based on learning would imply that distinct cognitive processes underlie each of these two types of learning.
We investigated observational learning by training novice dancers to perform complex dance movement sequences while manipulating training elements. Specifically, we determined whether observational and physical learning resulted in quantitatively similar or different behavioral performance and patterns of neural activity, and examined how adding an expert model to the training procedure influenced behavior and neural activity. Due to the complexity and unfeasibility of having participants actually perform dance sequences in the scanner (but see Brown et al., 2006), we instead chose to train participants to perform the movement sequences with videos outside the scanner, and then asked them to observe the training videos during the scanning sessions, as shown in Figure 1.
Arts & Cognition - Chapter 5 - Figure 1 - Content
Figure 1. Part A: Schematic representation of the study design. The findings from this report focus on overlaps between the danced and watched training conditions, whether a small figure is present in the instruction or not.  Part B: Training apparatus. On a dance pad connected to a computer, participants step on arrows arranged in the four cardinal directions (front, back, right, and left) in time with arrow cues on the screen. Each dance sequence is linked with a particular song. (Photo by Emily Cross)

A growing body of evidence indicates that action observation during imaging can be used as a surrogate marker for studying the neural systems involved in physical skill. Numerous studies have demonstrated that action observation models can be used to characterize the neural substrates for action understanding and action learning (e.g., Decety and Grezes, 1999; Brass et al., 2000; Buccino et al., 2001; Grezes and Decety, 2001; Rizzolatti and Craighero, 2004). These experiments identify a distinct set of brain regions that are active both when observing and when performing actions, referred to as the “mirror neuron system” or, more broadly, the “action observation network”(AON).
For the purposes of this research, we use the term “action observation network” over “mirror neuron system,” since this latter term is more general and encompasses all of the brain regions involved in action observation processes, not simply the two main mirror neuron regions (inferior parietal and premotor cortices). The brain regions that are generally included in the AON include the supplementary motor area (SMA), the ventral premotor cortex (PMv), the inferior parietal lobule (IPL), and posterior superior temporal sulcus/middle temporal gyrus (pSTS/pMTG) (Stephan et al., 1995; Decety, 1996; Grafton et al., 1996; Rizzolatti et al., 1996; Binkofski et al., 2000).
In line with the present experiment, several past studies have demonstrated the feasibility of using dance learning and observation as a paradigm for investigating the properties of the AON (Calvo-Merino et al., 2005; Calvo-Merino et al., 2006; Cross et al., 2006). The first such study was conducted by Calvo-Merino and colleagues. They investigated the specificity of the AON to observing one’s own movement repertory, compared to an unfamiliar and untrained movement repertory (Calvo-Merino et al., 2005). In this study, expert ballet dancers, capoeira dancers, and non-dancer control participants passively viewed ballet and capoeira dance clips while undergoing fMRI scanning.
The authors reported significantly greater activity within the AON, including bilateral PMv and IPL activity, right superior parietal lobe, and left STS, when dancers observed the movement style of which they were expert. From this, Calvo-Merino and colleagues concluded that the AON is able to integrate one’s own movement repertoire with observed actions of others, thus facilitating action understanding.
A related study from our laboratory investigated the possibility of creating an action simulation de novo in a group of expert modern dancers and exploring how this new learning might be reflected within AON activity (Cross et al., 2006). For this study, we measured patterns of neural activity within 10 dancers as they learned a complex new modern dance work over a six-week period. While being scanned, the dancers observed short clips of the new dance work they were learning, and of non-rehearsed, kinematically similar control dance sequences. After each clip concluded, participants rated their ability to perform each movement sequence. The critical contribution of this study was that, as the dancers’ expertise with the rehearsed dance sequences increased, activity within the brain’s PMv and IPL tracked parametrically with their perceived expertise.
A second study by Calvo-Merino and colleagues (Calvo-Merino et al., 2006) examined the influence of visual, compared to motor, experience on AON activity during action observation. In order to parse visual familiarity from physical experience, expert men and women ballet dancers observed videos of movements learned only by their sex, only by the opposite sex, or moves that are performed by all dancers. The motivation behind this procedure was to determine whether equally robust action resonance processes may be elicited by observation of movements that are equally visually familiar, because men and women dancers train together, but unequal in terms of physical experience.
The authors reported that when effects of visual familiarity are controlled for (i.e., when dancers watched moves from their own movement repertoire, compared to moves that they frequently saw, but never physically performed), evidence for action resonance based on pure motor experience was found in inferior parietal, premotor, and cerebellar brain cortices. The authors conclude that actual physical experience is a necessary prerequisite for robust activation in these areas of the AON. This study provides an excellent point of departure for the present study, as we also are interested in measuring how purely observational experience is represented in the AON.
Taken together, these prior dance studies provide robust evidence for changes within the AON with the presence (or emergence) of execution competency. The current study built upon this foundation by addressing open questions about the sensitivity of this network to real and observational learning.
To that end, the objectives of this study were to determine how movement training influences activity within the AON, and how observational learning (such as when one simply watches the dance instructor without imitating the movements) is represented within the AON. By addressing these questions through the use of both behavioral and neuroimaging measures, we aim to better characterize the processes that underlie the various ways that people acquire new movements.


Behavioral Training
Participants’ performance on the rehearsed dance sequences improved across days, F(2.15, 29.97) = 45.1, p < 0.0001. In terms of behavioral performance for training with videos that included an expert human model, participants performed better when a model was present, F(1, 15) = 10.16, p < 0.003.
Behavioral Retest
Results from the post-scanning dance retest—where participants performed three songs they had trained on during the week, three that they had passively watched, three untrained songs, and three entirely novel songs—demonstrated a main effect of training experience, F(3, 39) = 4.6, p = 0.008. Pairwise comparisons revealed statistically significant differences between trained and untrained sequences (p = 0.001) and between trained and novel sequences (p = 0.002). Because performance was so similar between the untrained and novel sequences, our discussion for the post-scan dancing data focus only on differences between stimuli that were danced, watched, and untrained. Between these stimuli types, there was a linear trend of experience, with participants performing the best on sequences they danced, an intermediate level on those they passively observed, and the poorest on untrained sequences, F(1, 13) = 29.85, p < 0.0001.
Imaging Effects of Dance Training
The first set of imaging data analyses focused on locating brain regions within the action observation network that demonstrated a significant main effect of training during the post-training scan session. In order to assess the response of the AON to actions that have been rehearsed, whole-brain analyses were performed comparing the relative BOLD fMRI imaging responses while participants watched and listened to the set of videos that they had danced for five days (“danced”), and another set of videos for which they had received no training (“untrained”).
A t-test revealed a main effect of training, regardless of cue type, in several areas of the action observation network, including bilateral ventral premotor cortex, left inferior parietal lobule, supplementary motor area/pre-SMA, and mid STS. These results indicate that premotor and parietal components of the AON responded more to trained, relative to untrained dance sequences, suggesting that activity in these regions represents the neural resonance between observed and embodied actions.
Imaging Effects of Observational Learning
A separate set of imaging analyses focused on locating brain regions within the action observation network that demonstrated dissociable responses with respect to training type (whether the sequences were physically rehearsed, passively observed, or untrained). Viewing dance sequences that were only watched (and not danced) also was associated with significant activity in premotor areas, inferior parietal lobule, and basal ganglia, as shown in Figure 2.

Concluding Comments

Overall, our results indicate that at the neural level, learning by observing and physical learning lead to the same action resonance and prediction. This strong link between learning by doing and by observing suggests that early exposure to dance might enhance this link, through consistencies between the training methods.
Arts & Cognition - Chapter 5 - Figure 2 - Content
Figure 2. Overlapping areas that are engaged for action understanding after training by doing (danced) ortraining by watching. (image courtesy of Grafton Lab)
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La danza como cultura del conocimiento

En el proceso actual de la reestructuración de las culturas del conocimiento se vuelven a cuestionar los límites tradicionales entre el arte y la ciencia así como entre las ciencias y las letras. El cuerpo, sus movimientos y los sentidos entran en escena como instrumentos de producción y escenificación del conocimiento. La danza como “movimiento rítmicamente estructurado en el espacio” (Curt Sachs) es el conocimiento encarnado que, más allá de la danza artística y social, incluye escenificaciones corporales de comunidades o técnicas corporales del trabajo.
Así, entran en escena los gestos cotidianos, los ritmos del trabajo y los movimientos del hombre y de las máquinas: un archivo de la danza siempre es a la vez un archivo para las técnicas corporales. En sus principales temas de investigación el TAL analiza el papel del cuerpo y de los sentidos dentro de la cultura del conocimiento moderna. Ciencia y cultura no sólo inician un diálogo sino que juntas constituyen unas artes del conocimiento en el mejor sentido de la palabra.