Image by John Hain from Pixabay


November 14th, 2022

Mirror neurons are brain cells that fire at the exact location of the motor command or other command of another person doing the event. Thus, the term mirroring. This was an amazing discovery at the time in 1994. From a later paper by Dr. Rizzolatti, "A category of stimuli of great importance for primates, humans in particular, is that formed by actions done by other individuals. If we want to survive, we must understand the actions of others. Furthermore, without action understanding, social organization is impossible. In the case of humans, there is another faculty that depends on the observation of others' actions:

imitation learning. Unlike most species, we are able to learn by imitation, and this faculty is at the basis of human culture."

Mirror neurons can explain human behavior that covers the realities of empathy, imitation and language development. These brain regions are like a network of sensors to learn and recreate actions or just understand an opposing creature/persons emotional state that has profound impacts for our relationships and survival. These mirror systems may explain the common speech patterns of regions including southern drawls and northern styles.

This gets even more fascinating when see the subsequent studies showing that visual input is not necessary for the mirror neurons to learn. Auditory neurons can learn from sounds that reflect an action. Congenitally blind individuals show brain enhancement in these same neurons when exposed to action sounds leading to learning through hearing.

"In essence, when blind people hear the actions of others, they use the same network of cortical brain areas that sighted people use when they observe such actions. This fits into what we already know about how some regions of the brain are recruited for different uses by blind people. For example, congenitally blind individuals rely on areas in the visual cortex to acquire information about an object’s shape and movement through other senses like touch and hearing. As Ricciardi, Pietrini and colleagues point out, the recruitment of visual brain areas for non-visual recognition in congenitally blind individuals indicates that neither visual experience nor visual imagery is required to form an abstract representation of objects."(Bates M. 2009)

While it is not surprising that the senses plural can learn this way it is fascinating and lends force behind the reality that we can learn to use all of our senses to be the most adapted creatures on the planet through mirrored learning. This is like having internal recipe books for an action written by another. Without the book, it has be imagined. With the book it is just learned by sensing the action.

The brain is amazing.

Close your eyes and use more senses to grow the systems of the mirror.

Dr. M

Rizzolatti Annu Rev NeuroSci
Pellegrino Exp Brain Res
Bates Scientific American