Mirroring Neurons

First of all- what are neurons? Neurons are the nerve cells that make up your nervous system. They are used to send messages from all over the body to the brain. There are approximately 86 billion neurons in the human brain.

You may have heard the term “mirroring neurons” before. A mirroring neuron is a neuron which reacts when an animal performs and action and the animal observes the same action performed by another animal.

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An example of mirroring neurons with a human and a new born macaque.

Scientists first found out of mirroring neurons accidentally. In 1996, a group of neuroscientists at a laboratory in Parma, Italy (leaded by Giacomo Rizzolatti) were working with monkeys and were testing a neuron called a motor neuron that made a sound whenever a monkey would grab a peanut. One day, a monkey was sitting around when a scientist grabbed a peanut in front of the monkey. The monkey’s motor neuron made the same sound.  However, the monkey did not move-the scientist moved. This meant that for this special neuron watching somebody do something is like doing it yourself.

Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist at UCLA, believes that mirror neurons can send message through neurons to the limbic, or emotional system. So that means that mirror neurons can help us understand each other’s feelings more easily, or empathy.

The mirror system is probably the most basic social brain system. With the mirror brain system, we can learn from other people and pass down our knowledge generation by generation.

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