Mirror neurons have been hailed by scientists as the most significant finding in neurology in the past decade, the key to understanding the secrets of human interaction and learning, and as significant to psychology as DNA is to biology. Mirror neurons are a newly-discovered structure of the brain responsible for the firing of neurons during both physical movement and the observation of physical movement. It is these firings during observation of movements that has scientists excited about their relation to learning and interaction. While mirror neurons have been found in both primates and humans, their role in terms of learning and perfecting motor skills is still unclear.
The discovery of mirror neurons:
The discovery of mirror neurons in macaque monkey was actually an accident during research on the monkeys.
It was found that when placing peanuts in front of a monkey, a neuron would be fired whenever the monkey would reach for a peanut. This was to be expected: neurons are fired as signals to muscles to perform the movement. However, when a researcher grabbed a peanut while the monkey was simply watching, the neurons were still fired, implying a neurological link between physical movement and observation.
While it is believed that mirror neurons are imperative for monkeys to understand what other monkeys are doing, the believed function of mirror neurons in human brains is much more extensive.
Discovery of possible neuron mirror systems in the human brain have been found by the fact that areas in motor cortex become excited when a person observes another do an action.
This same motor cortex is responsible for our physical movements, thus offering support that we too contain mirror...
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...eversed and reinforced results. The ObsPract Towards data shows that repeated viewing of a movement reinforcing one's baseline does, in fact, translate to a reinforcement of the physical baseline. However, the ObsPract Opposite results show that viewing, and not merely practicing (as in PhysPract) a movement that contradicts one's baseline can affect that baseline. After viewing the contradictory film, the ObsPract Opposite subject's baseline was clearly altered, as now half of his involuntary movements followed the film rather than his previously-established baseline. Though not a complete change of the neural pathway, this clearly demonstrates that viewing an activity can affect one's brain, as was hypothesized.
Stefan, Katja et al. October 2005. Formation of a Motor Memory by Action Observation. The Journal of Neuroscience: Vol. 25, issue 41.
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