Mirror Neurons the Discovery of Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

As part of the experiment, another person entered the study area and expressed feelings of anger at the researcher for some time and at other times remained neutral. Later the researchers found that children who had witnessed the angry person were less likely to play with the toy compared to the children who had witnessed the neutral person. Also the researchers found that even the children who had seen the angry expression would play with the toy if the person did not return to the room. As Meltzoff says, "Mirror neurons show how what you see can be connected with what you do, but human beings can also regulate their behavior" [ScienceDaily]

Commenting on the implications of mirror neuron discovery, psychologist Daniel Stern says, " our minds are not separated or isolated and we are not the only owners of our own mind. Minds get created by virtue of constant interaction and dialogue with other minds, so that the whole idea of a "one person psychology" ought not to exist or atleast it must be incomplete" [ Peter Philippson, pg 46] Psychologists also opine that this ability to control empathy is important as otherwise people would forever be influenced by the pain and suffering of others. "If we were to consciously feel what [others] feel all the time, we would be in permanent emotional turmoil, leaving no room for our own emotions," report Frederique de Vignemont and Tania Singer in a recent article in Trends in Cognitive Science. [ScienceDaily]


The discovery of Mirror neurons has led to new theories in understanding the development of human social cognition, empathy, imitative skills, learning skills, etc. Mirror neurons are very important and unique neuronic cell types that are activated not only by doing action but also by observing an action. With an important role in understanding others feelings and emotions, mirror neurons contribute immensely to human social behavior. This possible role of mirror neurons in developing the social cognition skills is confirmed by the fact that autistic children who are otherwise intelligent, exhibit a near total lack of empathy and other social skill deficits. EEG studies of autistic subjects show a dysfunctional mirror neuron activity confirming this hypothesis. The neural basis of empathy and callousness will also offer a new etiology for a spectrum of antisocial behaviors. Also with this new insight into the psychology of behavior, psychologists can now look forward to new empirical basis for understanding the basic therapeutic processes of psychotherapies such as hypnosis, cognitive behavioral therapies and other similar interventions. For victims of stroke and other conditions that caused neural damage, observation therapy would offer a new ray of hope for the regeneration of damaged neural circuits. More research is awaited in this new and promising field of neuroscience.


1) ScienceDaily, 'Mirror Neurons: How do we reflect on Behavior', Accessed Dec 14th 2009, available at, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070504114259.htm

2) ESF, 'What do Mirror Neurons Mean', Accessed Dec 14th 2009, available at, http://www.interdisciplines.org/mirror

3) Ramachandran V.S, 'Mirror Neurons and Imitation learning as the driving force behind "the great leap forward" in Human Evolution', Accessed Dec 14th 2009, available at, http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/ramachandran/ramachandran_p1.html

4) Kohler, E., Keysers, C., Umilta, M.A., Fogassi, L., Gallese, V., and Rizzolatti, G. Hearing sounds, understanding actions: Action representation in mirror neurons. Science (2002), 297: 846-848.

5) Ferrari P.F., Gallese V., Rizzolatti G., and Fogassi L. Mirror neurons responding to the observation of ingestive and communicative mouth actions in the monkey ventral premotor cortex. European Journal of Neuroscience (2003) 17: 1703-1714.

6) R.C Miall,, 'Connecting Mirror Neurons and Forward Models', Neuroreport, Vol 14 No 17, Dec 2003, Accessed Dec 14th 2009, available at, http://www.keck.ucsf.edu/~houde/sensorimotor_jc/RCMiall03a.pdf

7) Pfeifer JH, Iacoboni M, Mazziotta JC, Dapretto M., 'Mirroring others' emotions relates to empathy and interpersonal competence in children', Neuroimage. 2008 Feb 15;39(4):2076-85. Epub 2007 Nov 4.

8) Elizabeth A. Shirtcliff,1 Michael J. Vitacco,2 Alexander R. Graf et.al, 'Neurobiology of Empathy and Callousness: Implications for the Development of Antisocial Behavior', Behav Sci Law. 2009; 27(2): 137 -- 171., Available online at, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2729461/?tool=pmcentrez

9) Ernest S. Rossi, Kathryn L. Rossi & Los Osos CA, 'The Neuroscience of Observing Consciousness & Mirror neurons in therapeutic Hypnosis', American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis 48:4 April 2006, Available Online at, http://www.erickson-foundation.org/10thCongress/HandoutCD/Presenter%20Handouts/Rossi,%20Kathryn/K%20Rossi%20handouts%202.pdf

10) Peter Philippson, 'The Emergent Self: An existential Gestalt Approach', Karnac

Books, 2009

11) http://www.interdisciplines.org/mirror/papers/1 (comp review)

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