The secret of empathy
If someone smells a food and disgusts his face with disgust, the thing is clear to us: The food stinks and will probably taste disgusting. For this we need not to perceive the smell ourselves.
These mirror neurons fire when we perform an action ourselves, but also when we observe others in an action.
Are these nerve cells possibly the key to imitation learning, to the acquisition of social competences and perhaps also to empathy? After all, it is known that children with autism have much less mirror cells than average people. Also, it has been found that our mirror neurons also fire when thirds see a disgusting object and distort the face, disguised, without seeing the disgusting object at all.
What makes man human?
"The mirror neurons in the brain are special nerve cells that make humans a compassionate creature. [...] our mirror neurons not only react when we experience suffering, pain or pleasure ourselves, but these nerve cells also become active when we perceive these sensations in someone else's body. [...] The system of mirror neurons has thus played a significant role in human evolution and in the evolution of cultures. "Great! Sabine Kaufmann knows. At last the puzzle is solved, what exactly makes man human. At last we know that man consists of empathy and cooperation.
As always in such cases, rest is first civic duty. Not infrequently journalists are quick with a contribution at hand - even by the science understood only in the approach topics are handled handy and interpreted flaky. Consultants, authors and even scientists participate - they quickly formulate patent recipes and offer them in a book with a suitable title.
Between desire and science
This is precisely where the dividing line between desire and science runs. The existence of the mirror neurons is also demonstrated in humans, as is their functioning in (mostly laboratory) situations with tasks such as the imitation of often only individual movements or correct interpretation of the emotions of other people in precisely defined situations.
The question is whether the mirror neurons are actually the cause of imitation and perhaps even empathy or whether the development of the activity of our mirror neurons is the result of imitating learning. In any case, it is demonstrated that the ability of these nerve cells to reflect is the result of a learning process.
Replace the mirror neurons
Thus it can be shown that it is possible to repel these neurons: If certain mirror neurons firing at the movement of a pointer finger, one can achieve by practice that these cells no longer become active during the movement of the index finger, but during the movement of the small finger ,
Also, our ability to imitate movements of certain parts of the body is localized in different brain regions. However, the system of mirror neurons that has been proven so far is found exclusively in a precisely defined brain area. And this brain area is also active in the autistic children mentioned above, when they try to imitate the movement of other people.
In summary, we currently only know that there is this system of mirror neurons and that it plays a role in the imitation of movements and the understanding of the directly perceptible behavior of other people. It remains exciting.
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