LOS ANGELES, April 15 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they have made the first direct recording of mirror neurons in the human brain, finding the cells more widely distributed than thought.
UCLA researchers said many scientists believe mirror neurons are what make us human. They are the cells in the brain that fire not only when we perform a particular action, but also when we watch someone else perform that same action.
Neuroscientists believe such “mirroring” is the mechanism by which we can empathize with others — how we “feel” someone’s pain, how we discern a grimace from a grin, a smirk from a smile.
Prior to the research there was no direct proof that mirror neurons existed. But now Professor Itzhak Fried, post doctoral fellow Roy Mukamel and their colleagues say they’ve made a direct recording of mirror neurons in the human brain.
“The study suggests that the distribution of these unique cells linking the activity of the self with that of others is wider than previously believed,” said Fried.
Mukamel said the findings suggest “dysfunction of these mirror cells might be involved in disorders such as autism, where the clinical signs can include difficulties with verbal and non-verbal communication, imitation and having empathy for others.”
The research that also included Arne Ekstrom, Jonas Kaplan and Marco Iacoboni appears in the journal Current Biology.
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