Mirror Neurons

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are beingtransformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”  – II Corinthians 3:18

“Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes, goes away and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”  – James 1:22-25

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1.  Mirror Neurons were discovered by accident in 1992

  • Neuroscientists were mapping the sensorimotor areas of monkeys’ brains, using tiny electrodes to determine which cells lit up during a specific movement
  • When a research assistant came back to the lab eating an ice-cream cone, the scientists were surprised to discover that specific neurons fired when monkeys merely observed another making a given movement, and thus the discovery of “mirror neurons” 1

2.  Because of the location of mirror neurons, beside our motor neurons (which govern movement), the areas of the brain that initiate our movements begin to activate even when we just watch someone else make the same movement 2

3.  Human mirror neurons are essential to the way people learn and explain how a skill can be learned just through observation

  • Imitative learning is a vital factor in children’s development (mimicking speech pitch and intonation, social skills, reading development, etc.)
  • Mirror neurons allow humans to respond with empathy to the emotions seen on another face, they cause a hand to twitch in readiness to catch a ball when we see someone else catching one, and in large part contribute to social intelligence 3

4.  Interestingly, while the mirror neurons of autistic people may fire when viewing patterns or cherished objects, they typically does not fire when viewing other’s faces, thereby causing a lack of ability to appropriately read and respond to social cues, or mimic social behaviors 4

5.  “By mimicking what another person does or feels, mirror neurons create a shared sensibility, bringing the outside to us: to understand another, we become like the other—at least a bit” 5

6.  In a nutshell, the recent discovery of mirror neurons validates that we were created to mimic what we gaze at
Continually beholding the glory of the Lord and looking into the mirror of God’s Word will transform us into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ

7.  The Bible is accurate even in its most recent discoveries in neuroscience

Notes:

  1. G. di Pelligrino et al., “Understanding Motor Events: A Neurophysiological Study.”Experimental Brain Research 91 (1992), pp. 176-180., http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/monkey-see-monkey-do-the-role-of-mirror-neurons-in-human-behavior.html
  2. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/mirror-neurons.html
    L. Fadiga et al., “Motor Facilitation During Action Observation: A Magnetic Stimulation Study,” Journal of Neurophysiology 73 (1995), pp. 2608-26
  3. Goleman, Daniel Social Intelligence: Beyond IQ, Beyond Emotional Intelligence, 2006, L. Fadiga et al., “Motor Facilitation During Action Observation: A Magnetic Stimulation Study,” Journal of Neurophysiology 73 (1995), pp. 2608-26
  4. L. Fadiga et al., “Motor Facilitation During Action Observation: A Magnetic Stimulation Study,” Journal of Neurophysiology 73 (1995), pp. 2608-26
  5. Stephanie D. Preston and Frans de Waal, “The Communication of Emotions and the Possibility of Empathy in Animals,” in Stephan G. Post et al., eds., Altruism and Altruistic Love: Science, Philosophy, and Religion in Dialogue (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).