The discovery of mirror neurons has been touted as one of the most important of modern neuroscience, but what exactly are these cells, and should you believe the hype?Chapter 11 of my book, 50 Human Brain Ideas You Really Need to Know. Here’s the introduction to the book, and my post about the most important idea in neuroscience. Mirror neurons are cells that fire during both the execution and observation of a specific action. They have been linked to many behaviours and abilities, from empathy to learning by imitation, as well as implicated in conditions such as autism. Mirror neurons were discovered in monkeys, but it’s still not clear whether they also exist in the human brain.Mirror neurons were identified in the brains of macaque monkeys by a team of Italian researchers during experiments performed in the 1990s. The researchers, who were studying how the brain controls hand and mouth movements, implanted microelectrodes into the monkeys’ brains in order to monitor the activity of single cells while the animals reached for pieces of food and put them into their mouths. These experiments revealed that the activity of certain cells increased when the monkeys performed this action.The cells in question are …read more

Via: The Guardian | Books