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Mirror Neurons

Robert McCormick's picture

Some interesting things about Mirror Neurons.

Mirror neurons senses both the move another person is about to make and their feelings, and instantaneously prepare us to imitate that movement and feel with them.

Mirror neurons operate in the premotor cortex, which governs speaking, and movement.

Mirror neurons are adjacent to motor neurons, their location begin to activate when we watch someone else make that same movement.

When we mentally rehearse an action, the same neurons activate as if we in the premotor cortex uttered those words or made that swing.

Our mirror neurons fire as we watch someone else, so that a portion of the pattern of neuronal firing in our brain mimics theirs.

This maps the identical information from what we are seeing onto our own motor neurons, letting us participate in the other’s person’s actions as If we were executing that action.

The human brain harbors multiple mirror neuron systems for mimicking actions, reading intentions, and for reading emotions.

They make emotions contagious, letting the feelings we witness flow through us, helping us get in synch and follow what is going on.

We “feel’ the other: sensing their sentiments, their movements, their sensations, their emotions as they act inside of us.

They ensure that the moment someone sees an emotion expressed on your face, they will at once sense that feeling within themselves.

And as our emotions are experienced not merely by ourselves in isolation but by those around us-both covertly and openly.

That is why, when you’re smiling, the whole world seem to smile with you.

It also explains the Michelangelo phenomenon, in which long-term partners come to resemble each other through facial-muscle mimicry and empathic resonance.

Such mirroring takes place in the realm of ideas, too, which is why sweeping cultural ideals and prejudices can spread through populations with viral speed.

Interesting study by W. D. Hutchinson. Inserts a laser-thin electrode monitoring a single neuron in a person, the neuron fired both when the person anticipated pain-a pinprick-and when merely seeing someone else receive a pinprick-"a neural snapshot of empathy in action. W. D. Hutchinson et al., "Pain-related Neurons in the Human Cingulate Cortex," Nature Neuroscience 2 (1999), pp. 403-405.

Information above is from Daniel Goleman's excellent new book, Social Intelligence, 2006.