Watch and Learn: The Mirror Neuron Song

by Kimberly on January 28, 2010 · 4 comments

In the 1990s, scientists at the University of Parma were studying motor neurons in monkeys. They attached electrodes to a monkey’s brain cells responsible for movements. These electrodes recorded whenever those cells fired…a.k.a. whenever the monkey moved.

Monkeys like peanuts. The researchers set out peanuts for the monkeys to grab. Monkey grabs a peanut, motor neuron fires, electrode records.

Then an odd thing happened. The monkey watched a human pick up the peanut. Their motor neuron fired. The human picked up another peanut. The motor neuron fired again. The monkey hadn’t moved, but the motor neuron fired as if it had.

And that’s how these researchers accidentally discovered one of the coolest things in our brain: mirror neurons.

Mirror neurons are special brain cells that reside on either side of our head. These neurons fire when you do something…or just watch someone else do something.

You may ask: so what? The “so what” is that mirror neurons help tie us to other people’s actions and their feelings. This is important for:

  • Empathy. When we see someone feel sad, we feel a little sad. When they’re happy, we’re happy. Mirror neurons help us develop empathy.
  • Learning: One way babies learn new skills is by watching others. That’s why second children may learn how to crawl sooner than the first–because they’ve been watching older brother crawl. We don’t lose this ability. When we’re trying to learn something new, it helps to watch someone else do it–because of mirror neurons.

It’s also an important concept for therapists to understand…and it provides a bit of job security. We will never replace live therapists. Only a live therapist can show a client or patient how to do something–and let their mirror neurons work to help teach them.

Last December, I posted my first neuroscience-inspired song. I’m proud now to share with you my second–Watch and Learn: The Mirror Neuron Song.

CHORUS:

Watch and learn, watch and learn
Let your mirror neurons do their thing
Watch and learn, watch and learn
It’s time for your brain to change

1) Mirror neurons are specialized
One on each side of the brain
Near Broca’s and the inferior parietal lobe
Sending signals all over the place

2) They don’t care if they do or watch
They’ll fire the same every time
They influence feelings of empathy
Cause if I watch you, I’ll feel in kind

3) Mirror neurons may be fundamental
In how we connect with each other
They let me learn by watching you
Like a babe learns watching it’s mother

4) The implications for mirror neurons
Are vast, it affects therapy
If a client watches while I show them
What to do, their brain syncs with me

5) Some think those with ASD
Or autism, if you know what I mean
Their social challenges may be due
To broken mirror neuron circuitry.

6) Mirror neurons fire the same
No difference if you do or see
We literally change our client’s brains
When working with them through therapy.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Steven | The Emotion Machine January 30, 2010 at 9:29 am

I recently read about mirror neurons in the book “Social Intelligence,” by Daniel Goleman in which he explains how our brains are “wired to connect.” It is really interesting stuff. And to me it proves that we are all connected as one.

Great song…very cute and funny. 🙂
.-= Steven | The Emotion Machine´s last blog ..How To Combat Work Overload =-.

Kimberly February 1, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Thanks for the book recommendation, Steven! I’ll add that to my “wishlist” of books to read next. And glad you liked the song;D ~Kimberly

AY February 2, 2010 at 4:52 am

GREAT SONG!!
I’m doing my research on mirror neurons in NY, and I loved the song. Am now going to send it to my colleagues and friends 🙂

If you’re interested in a friendly site which explains about mirror neurons and how they may relate to different pathologies, check out this site –

http://mirrorneuronsresearch.com/

It also has recommendations for great books on the topic (I know, I read them all…)

Kimberly February 4, 2010 at 10:15 am

Thank you! So glad you like the song–especially since you know so much more about mirror neurons than I do! Hope I did them justice:D ~Kimberly

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