Emotion and mirror neurons (2)
Professor Christian Keysers discusses evidence that mirror neuron systems are necessary for processing emotions.
Itâ€™s very difficult to actually know what systems are really necessary for a task like social cognition, and the reason is quite simple; imagine you have a car, and thereâ€™s a stoplight at the back. Each time you stop or you decelerate this light goes on. But if I were to ask you is the light actually necessary for slowing down the car, if you wouldnâ€™t know about cars a very simple way to find out (especially if itâ€™s a friendâ€™s car) you could take a hammer, break the red light in the back and see whether the car can still decelerate. If the car can still decelerate it wasnâ€™t necessary, if it stops decelerating you know that the light was necessary. Now obviously in humans thatâ€™s a lot harder to do, because if we localize an area to contain mirror neurons, we canâ€™t just take a hammer and break that area and see if people will still socialize. So quite honestly the evidence we have is relatively meager; one thing we do know is that patients with lesions in the insula lose two faculties; one is the faculty to feel disgust themselves, so you can give them a glass of rotten milk and theyâ€™ll drink it quite happily, and the other thing is if you show them a photo of a happy person they can tell you the person is happy, show them a photo of a sad person they can tell you that person is sad. But if you show them a picture of a disgusted person, a photo of someone having the emotion they can no longer have, they are incapable of telling you that person is disgusted. So from that we seem to see that mirror [neuron] systems for certain emotions for instance, are really necessary to understand this emotion in other people.
mirror neurons, emotions, mirror systems, social cognition, insula, disgust, christian, keysers
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