Mirror Neurons

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Mirror neurons are defined as a group of neurons that fire both when the monkey executes a motor act and when it observes another individual (a human being or another monkey) performing the same or a similar motor act. They were discovered by a group of scientist at the University of Parma, Italy, when working on monkeys. The researchers, led by Giacomo Rizzolatti, had observed strange phenomenon with peanuts. They discovered that same group of neurons was responding when the monkey would pick up food and when the monkey saw someone performing the same action. This means that the same cells of the brain that are involved in motor planning are concerned in seeing the activities of others. It seems that the brain mirrors the movement it sees. This discovery got scientist to do more tests and they realized it is not just the “monkey thing”, it is relevant to people too. We all know that we learn by looking and coping. After all we are social creatures. Our survival literally depends on understanding the actions, intentions and emotions of others. These mirror neurons seem to allow us to grasp the minds of others, adapt their point of view not through conceptual reasoning but through imitation. In other words they are giving us ability to learn by feeling, not by thinking. Although this discovery does not teach me anything new that I have not known about learning before, I find it very interesting. It did make me think that I should be careful about things not only about what I watch and hear but also with whom I will associate. Our human history teaches us that society and certain people had tremendous influence on others’ behavior and that “the majority” barely ever asks “why?” before accepting certain behavior or moral standard. Learning by imitating is great way to learn fast when we are baby or very young because we are in a safe environment that our parents created, but as we become more mature we should be using our ability to think critically more often....
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