What is she thinking? Mirror neurons have been hailed by some as a discovery of major importance (for exampl,e the neurologist V.S. Ramachandran). It is claimed that they may explain the ability of humans to understand what someone else is feeling and thinking. This is not mind-reading but ‘Theory of Mind’ – the understanding that other people have a separate mind to your own and therefore do not see or experience the world as you do. A certain group of neurons were discovered in macaque monkeys which were activated when the monkey was inactive itself but was watching another monkey perform an action. The big question is whether such mirror neurons, as they are called, will be able to explain empathy, autism, morality, language and more, or whether it’s all a storm in a tea cup . This topic is covered in the A2 specification that some of you will be studying – so you might be interested in a recent item in the New Scientist. A team of scientists have provided evidence that mirror neurons (MNs) are not always activated when understanding the actions of others. This overturns the current views on MNs and suggests that a rethink may be needed.
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