Mirror neurons are neurons or brain cells that lead to reactions both when a person or animal acts and when the animal or person observes the same in another person or animal. This means that these neurons act as mirrors to the behavior of the other person or animal as if the one observing was acting. Mirror neurons are beneficial because they help in understanding what is performed by other people. In addition, they facilitate learning of new skills through the habit of imitation.
According to recent research carried out by Glaser, there have been discoveries that mirror neurons get active when we simply observe another person making moves. Therefore, these brains cells perform in the same manner whether one is watching or actually doing. According to Glaser and other researchers, vision is a very active process. This means that observing is a process of projecting what a person expects in the world and frequently requires matching a person’s own experience, prejudice, and expectations with what is observed (Glaser 23).
Glaser’s research concerning mirror neurons can be applied to other areas of movement such as basketball. It is not easy for the mind to distinguish between real or imagined danger thereby helping in attaining goals. The mirror neurons are in the brain in that when a person focuses on creating that perfect free throw on the basketball court, a mirror sets up and holds that frame in the mind so that it actually believes that the individual is doing it. Brain scans demonstrate virtually the same practice whether a person is actually shooting the basketball or just imagining it. Therefore, through mirror neurons, I can understand better my favorite game of basketball through the imitation process while watching other people play it.
The main role of mirror neurons is that they grow active both when an animal, for instance a monkey, makes a certain action like grasping an object and when it observes another person/animal making the same action. Therefore, these peculiar cells mirror the outside world thus enabling us internalize the actions of others. Thus, as I watch basketball as played by a team or friends, a few cells in my premotor cortex are convinced that I myself am touching the rim. Moreover, when a three pointer is hit, my mirror neurons become lightened as though I have just made the crucial shot. These neurons therefore, bring me closer to the game, breaking down that wall separating fan from player. When a team I like loses, I get upset because it literally feels as if I had been on the court.
Significance of mirror neurons and how they relate to our early development
Most scientists rate mirror neurons as one of the current vital discoveries in neuroscience. For instance, mirror neurons assist in facilitating people’s moods, emotion shifts and body language. There is a certain level of understanding in how one responds to another and vice versa. Thus, these encounters become the major focus for future interaction with others, meaning that people memorize other’s behavior for future use if necessary. The mirror neurons permit a person to watch someone else participate in an action and then get the illusion that they themselves were doing it. In relation to early development, our brains use logical thought process as a way of interpreting and making predictions of other people’s actions. Therefore, this has proved that human beings understand each other not by thinking but by feeling. This is the same way that mirror neurons demonstrate to us that we should copy others not just their actions, but the intentions and emotions behind those actions.
Glaser, Daniel. Mirror neurons and the evolution of brain and language. New York, NY: John Benjamins Publishing Company.