Friday, March 5, 2010

Mirror Neurons

I was watching VS Ramachandran's talk on TED titled The Neurons that Shaped Civilization, or simply known as mirror neurons. Basically, these set of neurons activate when observing another person's act - the neurons 'mirror' the activity of that other person. Ramachandran says that these mirror neurons made culture and civilization possible. They enable people to imitate and emulate each other's behavior and actions. In the earliest stage of civilization, when a person came up with the idea of tool use, the idea is observed by another person through mirror neurons. The idea is then spread out horizontally across population and then vertically through generations. According to Darwin, fur coat might have taken generations to mature and evolve on polar bears. But because we have mirror neurons, they made it possible for us to observed from our parents that to have a fur coat, we simply just have to kill a bear and skin it. All that can be possible within 10 minutes, as oppose to millions of years.

With mirror neurons, we are able to observe, empathize, and learn from others. It is no wonder that we feel emotional pain and empathize with people who were struck by natural disasters and feel sexual excitement when watching sexual intimacy on screen or simply have social skills because we observe and learn from people around us.

This also leads me to think that do those with abnormal mirror neuron activities have psychological disorders? So I searched 'mirror neurons' some more on the net and found out that people with autism have mirror neuron deficiencies which causes them to lack social skills, learning skills, and imitation. However, I don't think mirror neuron deficiencies is the only effecting factor. Surely there are a number of reasons that can contribute to a person's lack of social or learning skills. People whose parents are abusive or persons with ADHD are general examples of this.

No comments: