Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What We Know Currently about Mirror Neurons

This is an interesting minireview in Current Biology about mirror neurons.  If you didn’t already know, a mirror neuron is a neuron that fires when an animal acts and also when the animal observes this same action performed by another animal.  They were first discovered in macaques about 20 years ago.  This discovery was exciting because it led to a new way of thinking about how we act and its relationship to the actions of others.

One example of when a mirror neuron is fired is when (1) a primate picks up an object or (2) the primate watches a human pick up the same object.  What is interesting is that this neuron will not be fired if the primate watches a machine pick up the object.  Although this field of studying mirror neurons is quite novel and we certainly don’t know its functional significance, it is interesting to think about their implications and also the questions we should be asking in this field. 

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