Monkey see, monkey do

Posted by on Jun 30, 2009 in Uncategorized | No Comments


Had this great book by neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni around for a while and have been re-reading it properly, prompted by contact with the great man.

The way It describes the story of the discovery of 'mirror neurons' by the team in Palma is excellent.

[If you've not been paying attention, these 'mirror neurons' are the unusual braincells which provide the basis for our species' extraordinary ability for interpersonal skills by straddling the motor and cognitive systems in every way.]

I think it's just tiptop. This opening passage gives you a taster:

"When we get right down to it, what do we human beings do all day long? We read the world, especially the people we encounter, My face in the mirror first thing in the morning doesn't look too good, but the face beside me in the mirror tells me that my lovely wife is off to a good start. One glance at my eleven-year-old daughter at the breakfast table tells me to tread carefully and sip my espresso in silence. When a colleague reaches for a wrench in the laboratory, I know he's ging to work on the magnetic stiulation machine, and he's not going to throw his tool against the wall in anger…[]…we all make dozens – hundreds – of such distinctions every day. It is quite literally, what we do

[for a long time] nobody could begin to explain how it is that we know what others are doing, thinking and feeling.

Now we can. We achieve our very subtle understanding of other people thanks to certain collections of special cells in the brain called mirror neurons. These are the tiny miracles that get us through the day. They are at the heart of how we navigate through our lives. They bind us with each other, mentally and emotionally"

Now go buy it and read it for yourself

Pic credit Andrew N Meltzoff (whose innovative work in the 70s demonstrated how early the copying mechanism operates in humans…)