Thursday, January 12, 2006

Why "Monkey See, Monkey Do' Works for People

The Times Tuesday, in Cells That Read Minds, reported on interesting research. Scientists are watching primates (first monkeys, then humans) to see what cells were activated when we watch other primates:
"The monkey brain contains a special class of cells, called mirror neurons,
that fire when the animal sees or hears an action and when the animal carries
out the same action on its own.

But if the findings, published in 1996,
surprised most scientists, recent research has left them flabbergasted. Humans,
it turns out, have mirror neurons that are far smarter, more flexible and more
highly evolved than any of those found in monkeys, a fact that scientists say
reflects the evolution of humans' sophisticated social abilities.

human brain has multiple mirror neuron systems that specialize in carrying out
and understanding not just the actions of others but their intentions, the
social meaning of their behavior and their emotions."

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