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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Mirror Neurons

Mysterious Mirror Neurons
Back in 1996, three neuroscientists were probing the brain of a macaque monkey when they stumbled across a curious cluster of cells in the premotor cortex – an area of the brain that helps us plan our movements.
They found that the interesting cluster of cells fired not only when the monkey performed an action – but also when the monkey saw the same action performed by someone else. The cells basically responded the same way whether the monkey reached out to grasp a peanut, or merely watched as another monkey or a human grabbed a peanut. Because the cells reflected the actions that the monkey observed in others, the neuroscientists named them "mirror neurons."
Later experiments confirmed the existence of mirror neurons in humans … and revealed yet another surprise: In addition to mirroring actions – the cells also mirrored sensations and emotions.
“With mirror neurons we are practically in another person’s mind,” says Marco Iacoboni, neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine.
Since their discovery – mirror neurons have been implicated in a broad range of phenomena, including certain mental disorders. They may help cognitive scientists explain how children develop their “theory of mind” (ToM) – which is a child’s understanding that others have minds similar to their own. Doing so may help shed light on autism, in which this type of understanding is often missing

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