n the early 1990′s, a team of scientists at the University of Parma made an amazing discovery.
Observing macaque monkeys, they noticed a certain group of neurons in their brains fired not only when a monkey performed an action, such as grabbing a banana from a tree, but also when a monkey watched someone else perform the same action.
Monkey see, monkey do and Eureka! Mirror Neurons were born.
What Are Mirror Neurons?
A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires when an action is observed. The interesting thing is that it’s the same set of neurons that fire when the action is actually being done.
Basically the neuron ‘mirrors’ the behavior of the action being observed, simulating the experience in one’s brain. Mirror neurons can be triggered by what you see, hear, or read.
The point of debate is whether or not these mirror neurons translate to actual meaning, association, or both. Either way, they appear to be essential in our ability to understand one another’s feelings, emotions, and behaviors.
What’s The Value?
The discovery of mirror neurons opens up a couple of intriguing real world applications.
Mirror neurons can be utilized for imitation and guiding behavior through action.
For example, when one person yawns, someone who sees this is soon yawning themselves. This same idea can be applied in various situations. Suppose you’re going to an interview or giving a presentation, putting on your best smile can be contagious to others and raise the spirits of everyone involved.
When we mirror other people with intent, it can be an important part of building rapport and nurturing feelings of understanding.
By seeing that mirror neurons allow us to comprehend feelings through sight and sound, one can use this information to better communicate with their audience.
Writers, directors, advertisers and others can utilize this research to make their stories even more powerful, as they uncover associations between what we observe and how we feel.
Other value, such as its benefit in treating learning disorders and being the key to empathy are largely hypothetical, but could lead to more breakthroughs in the future.
In the end, mirror neurons are an interesting discovery in the human mind and something we can be aware of in our daily lives.