Monday, September 18, 2006

 

'Spectrum of empathy' found in the brain (Current Biology)

From New Scientist: Ever wondered how some people can "put themselves into another person's shoes" and some people cannot? Our ability to empathise with others seems to depend on the action of 'mirror neurons' in the brain, according to a new study.

Mirror neurons, known to exist in humans and in macaque monkeys, activate when an action is observed, and also when it is performed. Now new research reveals that there are mirror neurons in humans that fire when sounds are heard. In other words, if you hear the noise of someone eating an apple, some of the same neurons fire as when you eat the apple yourself.

So-called auditory mirror neurons were known only in macaques. To determine if they exist in humans Valeria Gazzola, at the school of behavioural and cognitive neuro-sciences neuro-imaging centre at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, and colleagues, put 16 volunteers into functional magnetic resonance imaging (f-MRI) scanners and observed their brains as they were played different noises. [Scanner, Empathy, Behavioral]
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Based on the journal Current Biology paper "Empathy and the Somatotopic Auditory Mirror System in Humans" (Abstract)

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