Scientific events  

Mind-Brain Lecture: Michael Arbib (University of Southern California)

“When brains design/experience buildings”

22 October 2015, 19.00

Venue: Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Luisenstraße 56, R. 144 (ground floor), 10117 Berlin


In addition to his work in computational and cognitive neuroscience and the evolution of the language-ready brain, Michael Arbib has in recent years become interested in the interface between neuroscience and architecture – what can neuroscience tell us about how people experience buildings, how architects design buildings, and how might “brains for buildings”  contribute to a smart architecture? He is currently vice-president of the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture, ANFA ( This talk will be based on a talk given at a conference on “East-West Connections: Cultural Patterns, Cognitive Patterns and a Good Life” at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore on September 16th. The East-West connections there were between East Asia and Europe and the USA, but Arbib would welcome discussion after his talk of the impact of the unification of East and West Germany on the architecture of Berlin (whether or not neuroscience is relevant to the discussion). In any case, the question “How can architecture contribute to a good life?” raises many other issues worthy of further discussion.

Co-organized by the Association of Neuroesthetics

Journal Club

Please register by sending an e-mail to

22 October 2015, 15.00

Venue: Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Luisenstraße 56, R. 123 (ground floor), 10117 Berlin

We will discuss the following paper:

Michael A. Arbib, Brad Gasser, Victor Barrès (2014). Language is handy but is it embodied? Neuropsychologia 55, p. 57–70

Part 1 provides Arbib's reflections on the influence of Marc Jeannerod on his career. Part 2 recalls the Mirror System Hypothesis (MSH) for the evolution of the language-ready brain, a theory which emphasizes the role of manual action in grounding language evolution, thus giving one meaning for “language is handy”. Part 3 then joins in current debates over the notion of whether or not language is embodied. Our overall argument is that embodiment is a graded rather than binary concept, and that embodiment provides the evolutionary and developmental core of concepts and language, but that the modern human brain supports abstraction processes that make embodiment little relevant in a wide range of language use. We urge that, rather than debate the extent of embodiment, attention should turn to the integration of empirical studies with computational modeling to delineate in detail processes of abstraction, generalization, metaphor and more, bridging between modeling of neural mechanisms in macaque that maybe posited for the brain of the last monkey-human common ancestor (LCA-m) and computational modeling of human language processing. Part 4 suggests that variants of construction grammar are well-suited to the latter task.

This page last updated on: 26 October 2015

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Map with location of the Berlin School of Mind and Brain at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Luisenstraße 56, Haus 1.

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