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Empathetic mirror neurons found in humans at last

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posted on Apr, 16 2010 @ 09:26 PM
New Scientist

Quote from source:
BRAIN cells that may underlie our ability to empathise with others have been detected directly in people for the first time.

Monkey brains have been shown to contain so-called "mirror" neurons, which fire both when the animal performs an action and when it observes others performing that action. Until now, the only evidence that our brains contain similar neurons has been indirect, derived from functional MRI scans.

Now Roy Mukamel at the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues have observed mirror neurons directly in humans. They used electrodes to record brain activity in the medial frontal and temporal cortices of 21 people awaiting surgery to treat epilepsy, while they made - or observed others making - grasping actions and facial expressions.

The majority of these neurons responded only to the observation or execution of an action, but 8 per cent of the cells responded to both (Current Biology, DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.02.045). These areas of the brain are involved in planning and controlling actions, abstract thinking and memory.

Mirror neurons were thought to exist primarily in regions of the brain involved in performing actions, so their presence in other regions suggests that this is not their only role. Other studies have found that people who appear to have more active mirror neurons also tend to be more empathetic. Marco Iacoboni, another member of the team and also at UCLA, says his team's results suggest that human mirror neurons provide "a rich reflection of the actions of others".

Any breakthrough in neuroscience deserves some recognition from me. I am happy to see that this discovery has been made and good to see that we are understanding the brain more and more everyday.

I had to share this because, maybe I'm just a nerd, but this stuff excites me.

Any thoughts?


posted on Apr, 16 2010 @ 09:52 PM
reply to post by predator0187

I also like how despite we have all this modern technology for neuroimaging it took using the same methodology that Wilder Penfield used more than 50 years ago to map the cortex.

posted on Apr, 16 2010 @ 10:33 PM
Nice read, I like the geeky stuff too (and it doesn't hurt to try and learn something every day).

Hopefully they'll discover a way to implant a few of those into bankers and politicians.

posted on Apr, 16 2010 @ 10:42 PM
I hope this will lead to more research in autism. One theory floating around is that children with autism have non-functioning or low-functioning mirror neurons. Now that they know where to find them, hopefully something will come out of it.

posted on Apr, 16 2010 @ 10:52 PM
Could this contribute or have an affect in the development of our languages?

interesting topic. Kudos to the OP

posted on Apr, 18 2010 @ 04:28 PM
This is important in so many ways.

If you have 10 minutes, it would be well spent listening to VS Ramachdran's "The Neurons that Shaped Civilization." (a TED video)

He does a brilliant job making this digestible and ends spectacularly by calling the mirror neurons the "Gandhi neurons" - for reasons that become apparent towards the end...

Check it out.

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