Deborah Jenson, Ph.D.

Photo of Deborah Jenson

Phone: (919) 381-8059

205 Language Center, Box 90257
Duke University
Durham, NC 27708

Email: deborah DOT jenson AT duke DOT edu

Professor and Director

Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies & Duke Global Health Institute

Romance Studies, Arts & Sciences

DIBS Faculty, DIBS Research Theme Leader

Research Description

Why are human beings subject to mimetic influence? How does verbal cognition, particularly in rhetoric and in verbal arts products such as fictional narrative or poetry, involve mimetic mechanisms? When and in what terms have such problems been explored in the history of neuroscience and mental health fields, such as the "mirror neuron system"?

I am also interested in "mimic" phenomena regulated by the autonomic nervous system in contexts including post-traumatic stress, proto-epileptic trance states, and vicarious empathic experience.

My engagement in global mental health, particularly in Haiti, overlaps with my interest in "social" and "cultural" neuroscience and the growing potential for global neuroscience education and research.


Ph.D., Harvard University

Maîtrise, Universite De Paris VIII

B.A., Bowdoin College

Recent Publications

“Literary Bio-Mimesis: Mirror Neurons and the Ontological Priority of Representation” (with Marco Iacoboni), California Italian Studies, 2:1 (2011) pp. 1-18.

Research Areas

Research Topics

  • Verbal cognition
  • Mimetic states and mechanisms
  • Post-traumatic stress