Thursday, March 13, 2008

Mirror neurons

Ok, this might help to explain something for me. Awesome.

Mirror neurons

"A mirror neuron is a premotor[1] neuron which fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another (especially conspecific) animal. Thus, the neuron "mirrors" the behavior of another animal, as though the observer were itself acting."

"For example, a mirror neuron which fires when the monkey rips a piece of paper would also fire when the monkey sees a person rip paper, or hears paper ripping (without visual cues). These properties have led researchers to believe that mirror neurons encode abstract concepts of actions like 'ripping paper', whether the action is performed by the monkey or another animal."

"It is not normally possible to study single neurons in the human brain, so scientists can not be certain that humans have mirror neurons."

By "possible" I assume they mean ethical. I was wondering how they did those experiments where they isolated the activity of one neuron.

"Mirror neurons have been linked to empathy, because certain brain regions (in particular the anterior insula and inferior frontal cortex) are active when a person experiences an emotion (disgust, happiness, pain etc) and when they see another person experience an emotion. However, these brain regions are not quite the same as the ones which mirror hand actions, and mirror neurons for emotional states or empathy have not yet been described in monkeys. More recently, Keysers and colleagues have shown that people that are more empathic according to self-report questionnaires have stronger activations both in the mirror system for hand actions and the mirror system for emotions providing more direct support to the idea that the mirror system is linked to empathy."

None of the implications mentioned had to do with body self-perception, but it seems like it's on a similar track.

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