Mirror Neurons and How They Affect Behavior
Mirror neurons are neurons that fire when we see someone performing an action and when we perform that same action ourselves. They respond to another’s actions in the same way they would if you were to do that action yourself.
Mirror neuron response is not only based on sight, though. These neurons can also fire when we hear or know that someone else is performing a similar action.
We’ll discuss how mirror neurons affect human behavior in this article. Read on for more.
What Is “The Same Action”?
There are various types of mirror neurons, and each serves a different purpose:
Strictly congruent – these neurons only fire when the mirrored action is identical to the action performed. In both cases, the movement and the goal are the same.
Broadly congruent – these neurons fire when the mirrored action’s goal is the same as that of the performed action, but the two actions are not identical. For instance, they’ll fire if you pick an object up with your hands while seeing someone else do so with their month.
Mirror Neurons In Humans
In several studies conducted on monkey brains, brain activity was monitored directly by placing an electrode into the brain to measure electrical activity. The same technique is rarely ever used in human studies.
However, one study on mirror neurons probed epilepsy patients’ brains during a pre-surgery test. Researchers discovered potential mirror neurons in the medial temporal lobe, which helps code memory, and the medial frontal lobe.
Mirror Neurons’ Possible Role In Social Cognition
Mirror neurons have long been thought of as one of neuroscience’s most essential findings since they were discovered, intriguing professionals and amateurs alike. This interest is borne from the part that these neurons might play in defining social behaviors.
When we interact with one another, we understand what people feel or do. Therefore, some scientists believe that mirror neurons, which let us experience another’s actions, could help reveal some of the inner mechanisms behind why we communicate and learn.
Based on this potential role in social cognition, one group has theorized that autism may be caused by a ‘broken mirror system.’ Since autism is often identified by difficulty participating in social interactions and since mirror neurons help us understand the causes for different social behaviors. This group argues that reduced mirror neuron activity prevents autistic people from empathizing and understanding what others feel and why they do what they do.
Other researchers feel that this is a gross oversimplification of the condition. Some other researchers are skeptical as to whether neurons are critical to empathy at all. Even if you’ve never seen a particular action, you can still understand it – Superman can fly in films, even though you cannot.
While there’s been plenty of research around mirror neurons, there are still plenty of questions that need answering. Do they only occupy certain areas of the brain? What is their real purpose? Do they even exist? There’s a lot more work to be done before these questions can be answered.