Empathy via Mirror Neurons ~ We are ONE!
I am an avid traveler; as such I spend a lot of time in airports — ‛People Watching’ is a favorite activity of mine, and airports offer some intriguing opportunities! Noticing a grandmother arriving to be embraced by her daughter and grandchildren fills my heart with pleasure, as I observe their loving embrace. Two tearful lovers holding each other tight before one departs, resonates in my soul. Filled with empathy I feel both the joy and sadness present in these personal moments and in these moments I sense the oneness of humankind.
What causes us to share another person’s joy, pain, or other emotions and what does empathy have to do with DNA?
Empathy is the capacity to recognize emotions that are being experienced by another person, the ability to put yourself ‘in another’s shoes’.
According to medical writer Thomas S. May, “Empathy, research indicates, is made possible by a special group of nerve cells called mirror neurons, at various locations inside the brain. These special cells enable us to “mirror” emotions.”
A neuron is an electrically excitable cell that processes and transmits information through electrical and chemical signals, responding to and creating your personal vibration. These neurons transmit nerve signals to and from the brain at up to 200 mph! The neuron consists of a cell body with branching signal receivers and senders, which conduct the nerve signal, or vibration. The cell body contains the neuron’s nucleus which contains your DNA.
Mirror Neuron are neuron that fire both when you act and when you observe an action performed by another. Consequently, the neuron “mirrors” the behavior of another, as though you were acting.
Mirror neurons were discovered in the 1990s by a team of Italian scientists. While studying the activity of individual nerve cells inside the brains of macaque monkeys, they noticed neurons in the same area of the brain were activated whether the monkeys were performing a specific action or observing another perform the same action. It appeared as though the cells in the observer’s brain “mirrored” the activity in the performer’s brain.
Professor Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, explains, “A similar phenomenon takes place when we watch someone experience an emotion and feel the same emotion in response. The same neural systems get activated in a part of the cortex called the insula, which is part of the mirror neuron system, and in the emotional brain areas associated with the observed emotion. However, the amount of activation is slightly smaller for the “mirrored experience” than when the same emotion is experienced directly.”
By consciously connecting and communicating with your DNA, which is present in mirror neurons, you will easily understand the meaning of other’s behavior from within. You will begin to appreciate other people’s actions in terms of your own actions and goals and empathize with them. In truth we are all connected, we are all one and the exchange created by our DNA, within the cells of our mirror neurons, is yet another way science is proving the strength of humankind’s connection with one another.
“If I really and truly empathize with your pain, I need to experience it myself. That’s what the mirror neurons are doing, allowing me to empathize with your pain—saying, in effect, that person is experiencing the same agony and excruciating pain as you would if somebody were to poke you with a needle directly. That’s the basis of all empathy.” ~ Neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran
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In this TED TALK Neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran outlines the fascinating functions of mirror neurons. He explains how receptors in the skin are all that separate us from each other. ‘Remove the skin and you literally feel what the person you are observing is experiencing’. He believes this is the basis of eastern philosophy stating, ‘We are all connected through our neurons.’
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Utilizing Your Mirror Neurons
- Stop ~ Bring forward (activate) your awareness
- Think ~ Consciously appreciate the feelings you share with others
- Pause ~ Allow yourself time to feel before you act
- Act ~ Behave in a way that harmonizes with what you feel
- Create ~ Together we will create a harmonious world as we realize we matter to each other and we want what is good for us all, for we are one!
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Books available on Mirror Neurons:
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After decades of research the mirror neuron continues to attract new inquisitive minds, check out these links for further study:
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by Elizabeth J Clark
What really lies in the 97% that scientists call “JUNK DNA”?
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