Vittorio Gallese

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Vittorio Gallese
Born 1959
Parma, Italy
Residence Italy, Parma
Nationality Italian
Fields Neurophysiology & Social neuroscience
Institutions University of Parma, Italy (professor)
Alma mater University of Parma, Parma; Italy
Known for Discoverer of mirror neurons

Vittorio Gallese is professor of human physiology at the University of Parma, Italy with appointments in the departments of neuroscience, psychiatry and psychology. He is an expert in neurophysiology, neuroscience, social neuroscience, and philosophy of mind. Gallese is one of the discoverers of mirror neurons. His research attempts to elucidate the functional organization of brain mechanisms underlying social cognition, including action understanding, empathy, and theory of mind.


Vittorio Gallese studied medicine at the University of Parma, Parma, Italy, and was awarded an M.D, in Neurology in 1990. He is a Full Professor of physiology in the Department of Neuroscience of the University of Parma. As a cognitive neuroscientist, his research focuses on the relationship between the sensory-motor system and cognition, both in non-human primates and humans using a variety of neurophysiological and functional neuroimaging techniques. Among his major contributions is the discovery, together with the colleagues of Parma, of mirror neurons, and the elaboration of a theoretical model of basic aspects of social cognition. He is actively developing an interdisciplinary approach to the understanding of intersubjectivity and social cognition in collaboration with psychologists, psycholinguists and philosophers.

Gallese has been doing research at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and at the Nihon University, Tokyo, Japan. He has been George Miller visiting professor at the University of California at Berkeley. In 2007 he received together with Giacomo Rizzolatti and Leonardo Fogassi the Grawemeyer Award for Psychology, for the discovery of mirror neurons. He received the Doctor Honoris Causa from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium in 2009. He receiced the Arnold Pfeffer Prize for Neuropsychoanalysis from the International Society of Neuropsychoanalysis, New York, U.S.A in 2010

Gallese has published over 150 papers in international peer-reviewed journals and edited books.

Simulation theory and mirror neurons[edit]

Gallese is probably best well known for two interconnecting areas of research - mirror neurons and simulation theory. Simulation theory is, amongst other things, a theory of social cognition - a theory of how it is we understand each other on the emotional, and other, levels, like intention and desire. Gallese states "that the fundamental mechanism that allows us a direct experiential grasp of the mind of others is not conceptual reasoning but direct simulation of the observed events through the mirror mechanism."[1] Gallese states that the mirror mechanism in humans is the neurophysiological substrate that underpins the embodied simulatory process. Gallese posits the simulation process plays a constitutive role in the process known as mind reading.[2] Gallese has defended simulation theory and the role mirror neurons play in simulation over the course of several decades and has recently done so in response to criticisms from de Bruin and Gallagher, who argue that one of simulation theories central theoretical notions, reuse in bodily format - underpinned by the MNS, lacks explanatory power.[3] Gallese argued in response that "the notion of reuse of mental states represented with a bodily format provides a convincing simulational account of the mirroring mechanism (MM) and its role in mind-reading."[4]


  1. ^ Vittorio Gallese, Christian Keysers and Giacomo Rizzolatti, 2004, "A unifying view of the basis of social cognition", Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Vol.8 No.9, pg 396.
  2. ^ Gallese, V and Sinigaglia, C, 2011, "What is so special about embodied simulation?" Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Vol. 15 No. 11, pg 515.
  3. ^ Leon de Bruin and Shaun Gallagher, 2012, "Embodied simulation, an unproductive explanation: Comment on Gallese and Sinigaglia" Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Vol. 16, No. 2.
  4. ^ Vittorio Gallese and Corrado Sinigaglia, 2012, "Response to de Bruin and Gallagher: embodied simulation as reuse is a productive explanation of a basic form of mind-reading", Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Vol. 16, No. 2, pg 99.

Editorial duties[edit]

  • Associate Editor, Emotion Review
  • Editorial Board, International Journal of Psychophysiology
  • Editorial Committee of Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences
  • Consulting Editor of Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
  • Member of the International Neuropsychological Symposium
  • Member of the Scientific Committee of the Fondation Fyssen, Paris, France

Selected books[edit]

  • Stamenov, N.I., and Gallese, V. (2002). Mirror Neurons and the Evolution of Brain and Language. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Co.

See also[edit]

Selected References[edit]

  • Rochat, M., Serra, E., Fadiga, L., and Gallese, V. (2008). The evolution of social cognition: Goal familiarity shapes monkeys’ action understanding. Current Biology,18: 227-232.
  • Ebisch, S.J.H., Perrucci, M.G., Ferretti, A., Del Gratta, C., Romani, G.L., and Gallese, V. (2008). The sense of touch: embodied simulation in a visuo-tactile mirroring mechanism for the sight of any touch. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20: 1611-1623.
  • Gallese, V. (2008). Mirror neurons and the social nature of language: The neural exploitation hypothesis. Social Neuroscience, 3: 317-333.

External links[edit]