Why do we close our eyes when someone we love is going to get hurt, like if it were going to happen to us? Why when we see that a couple, a friend, or a relative is crying, we feel that we need to cry too? Seems like we have the ability of reflecting their emotions, like we can feel them by ourselves. This is partly true, and the reason is the mirror neuron.
The mirror neuron fires when we act as a result of observing the same action performed by a person with whom we have an emotional connection. That is why they are called “mirror” because they reflect what is seen. The Italian neurobiologist Giacomo Rizzolatti, discover them while he was investigating how macaque monkey neurons in ventral premotor cortex controlled its movements. Rizzolatti extrapolated primate behavior to explain what happens to human beings when they reflect certain emotional aspects that occur in others. According to the scientist, our mirror neurons trough the limbic system, would recreate a mental representation of the sadness emotions of people we love, which motivate us to replicate them. Then, our conduct would depend on how well we understand others actions, intentions and emotions. Mirror neurons would allow us to comprehend others mind, not only through conceptual reasoning, but also through direct simulation, that is, feeling instead of thinking. A network of nervous connections, explained by neurophysiology, which provide the ability of understand immediately thoughts and feelings of our loved ones, and also they facilitate comprehending, cooperation and solidarity, helping us to recognize and understand others actions. The subject of mirror neurons is crucial to understand how empathy works. Studies developed by Stuart W.G. Derbyshire, from the University of Birmingham, have shown that people who say they can feel others physical pain, is linked with the activation of brain areas responsible for pain when they see others suffering. And somehow, they are feeling it. This is known as touch-mirror synesthesia and would explain the empathy of some people for others suffer. In the absence of new research, which would be interesting if they would be longitudinal to see if they are characteristics that evolve over time, we can instead start to deduce that some people tend to feel more empathy and compassion than others. A theory which would suggest that children need to have an emotional education during school in order to develop the ability to connect with others, as some authors like Punset affirm. After all, as social animals, empathy is the basis of connection with other members, where the so-called mirror neurons play a key role, because they allow human beings to deduce what others think, feel or do.
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