• Question: What is the purpose of mirror neurons?

    Asked by Oliver to James on 14 Mar 2019.
    • Photo: James Munro

      James Munro answered on 14 Mar 2019:

      Hey Oliver,

      Mirror neurons are brain cells which do two things. They help you make actions yourself (like picking up a cup) and they activate in almost the same way when you watch someone else do an action. So the neurons in my brani are processing my actions AND your actions. There is good evidence to suggest this is not just true of actions, but of emotions and sensations too (like feeling cold or being touched).

      My PhD research and other research has led me to believe that mirror neurons allow us to mimic actions and predict actions better. They can detect when an action has a goal for example. So in this way they are part of a bigger picture in the brain that helps us understand other people – by translating their movements, emotions and sensations into our own brain language.

      They’re pretty cool – but they suffer from how popular they are! Many researchers talked about mirror neurons like they were a magic answer to many questions when they are not. Yet!

      Hope that helps 🙂