What are mirror neurons?

When a child falls and hits their knee, the parents suffer and often even feel the pain. If we meet a person on the bus who smiles at us briefly, this makes us smile back spontaneously and can sometimes put us in a good mood for the whole day. The question now is: why can we quite intuitively empathize or imagine what is going on in another fellow human being?

Mirror neurons are contagious

The explanation of these phenomena lies in the mirror neurons discovered by scientists. This is a widely branched system of special nerve cells in our brain. These nerve cells are activated by the presence of other people and, as it were, mirror images of the other person’s feelings or physical states. Mirror neurons are thus the neurobiological basis for our intuitive knowledge and understanding of what other people are feeling. They let us know what people around us are feeling and let us share their joy or pain. That’s why laughter is so contagious, but also a depressed mood.

learning and knowledge

Babies imitate  their parents’ gestures and facial expressions from a very early age  . From the blink to the grimace, the face of the father and mother is like a mirror of the child’s behaviors. The researchers call this behavior, which is anchored in each of us, resonance behavior. This is made possible by the mirror neurons that have now been discovered. However, such triggered resonance reactions not only have psychological but also biological effects, because all experiences that we make in our environment are converted into biological signals by the brain. These signals not only change the nerve cell connections in the brain, our body changes as a whole. What we experience, what happens to us from others, influences and changes us – mentally and physically.

Practical use

The mirroring phenomena find practical application in the absorption and transfer of knowledge, for example for the understanding of children’s learning. But there are also examples in medicine. Stroke patients with paralysis of the extremities can obviously accelerate the relearning of lost skills by observing arm or leg movements.

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