Navigation Links
How mirror neurons allow us to learn and socialize by going through the motions in the head
Date:12/19/2008

The old adage that we can only learn how to do something by trying it ourselves may have to be revised in the light of recent discoveries in neuroscience. It turns out that humans, primates, some birds, and possibly other higher animals have mirror neurons that fire in the same pattern whether performing or just observing a task. These mirror neurons clearly play an important role in learning motor tasks involving hand eye coordination, and possibly also acquisition of language skills, as well as being required for social skills, but the exact processes involved are only just being discovered. In particular the relationship between mirror neural networks and social cognitive tasks has been unclear, and greater knowledge of it could shed light on problems such as autism that may arise when this process goes wrong.

This emerging field of mirror neurons in social cognition was discussed at a recent workshop organized by the European Science Foundation (ESF), which laid the ground for the first common research network dedicated to this fast emerging field, within the EU's 7th Research Framework Programme running until 2013.

The role of mirror neurons at all levels of social interaction is even greater than had been realized, according to convenor of the ESF conference Riccardo Viale, president of Rosselli Foundation in Turin, Italy and professor of Cognitive Science (University of Milan). "Most of the speakers highlighted how the mirror mechanism is crucial for both more basic forms of emotional recognition and also higher aspects of empathy," said Viale.

Just as the same mirror neurons fire when observing and doing certain tasks, so other mirror neurons may be triggered both when experiencing a particularly emotion and when observing someone else with that emotion. At the ESF conference it emerged that mirror neurons involved in emotion resided in both the insula and cingulate cortexes, two regions of the brain known to play roles in emotions and feelings. However until recently the mechanisms of interaction between these two had been largely unknown. "In the case of emotions, we can say that there is a good deal of overlap between areas from the insula and cingulate cortexes," said Viale. "These areas become active both when individuals feel an emotion (e.g. disgust) and also when they watch someone else feeling that emotion."

Mirror neurons were discovered in the 1980s by an Italian group led by Giacomo Rizzolatti, which placed electrodes in the inferior frontal cortex of macaque monkeys' brains to study neurons dedicated to control of hand movement. This led to the surprising observation that some of the neurons responded in the same way when monkeys saw a person pick up a piece of food as when they were doing it themselves. This introduced the principle of the mirror neuron as a neuron capable of being triggered by imitation, as a mechanism both for learning and empathising in social situations.

While mirror neutrons cannot be observed directly in humans because electrodes cannot be inserted into their brains, the action has been inferred by imaging of the whole brain using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This showed patterns of brain activity consistent with the firing of motor neurons.

More recently motor neurons have also been discovered in birds. "This suggests that such a sensory-motor mechanism is not confined to primates, but is shared by different phyla," said Viale. However the mechanism is not thought to be present in more primitive animals, including the lower cold blooded vertebrates, that is fish, reptiles and amphibians.


'/>"/>

Contact: Riccardo Viale
riccardo.viale@fondazionerosselli.it
39-026-448-7539
European Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Mice use specialized neurons to detect carbon dioxide in the air
2. The accumulation of sugar in neurons may explain the origin of several neurodegenerative diseases
3. The birth and death of dopamine neurons: A new model for neurodegeneration
4. Overexcited neurons not good for cell health
5. Weill Cornell team discovers how brains own tPA helps regulate blood flow to neurons
6. Neurons hard wired to tell left from right
7. Inflammation triggers cell fusions that could protect neurons, Stanford research shows
8. Looking at neurons from all sides
9. Stabilizing force for good communication between neurons and muscle cells found
10. Mediator in communication between neurons and muscle cells found
11. Protecting neurons could halt Alzheimers, Parkinsons diseases
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/9/2016)... leader in attendance control systems is proud to announce the introduction of fingerprint attendance ... the right employees are actually signing in, and to even control the opening of ... ... ... Photo - ...
(Date:6/7/2016)... 2016  Syngrafii Inc. and San Antonio Credit ... includes integrating Syngrafii,s patented LongPen™ eSignature "Wet" solution ... will result in greater convenience for SACU members ... maintaining existing document workflow and compliance requirements. ... Highlights: ...
(Date:6/2/2016)... , June 2, 2016 The Department ... has awarded the 44 million US Dollar project, for the ... Vehicle Plates including Personalization, Enrolment, and IT Infrastructure , ... in the production and implementation of Identity Management Solutions. Numerous ... however Decatur was selected for the ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016   EpiBiome , ... secured $1 million in debt financing from Silicon Valley ... up automation and to advance its drug development efforts, ... new facility. "SVB has been an incredible ... the services a traditional bank would provide," said Dr. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... ... In a new case report published today in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine, ... after being treated for breast cancer benefitted from an injection of stem cells derived ... debilitating, frequent side effect of cancer treatment. , Lymphedema refers to the ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016 Andrew ... http://doi.org/10.17925/OHR.2016.12.01.22 Published recently in ... journal from touchONCOLOGY, Andrew D Zelenetz , ... cancer care is placing an increasing burden on ... biologic therapies. With the patents on many biologics ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... quality, regulatory and technical consulting, provides a free webinar on Performing ... July 13, 2016 at 12pm CT at no charge. , Incomplete investigations are ...
Breaking Biology Technology: