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I know exactly how you feel

First, the laser beam came rigid, and then the shock. This so-called Freezing is a typical response of rats to a pain, such as a Laser caused. What is the Team head of the study, Christian Keysers from the Netherlands Institute for neuroscience in Amsterdam attracted attention, however, was: The rats became filled with rigid in shock, when they themselves were not exposed to the laser beam, but merely observed, such as conspecifics in pain responded.

The simultaneous reaction manifested itself not only in the behavior of observed in rats, but also in the activity of some of its neurons in the "anterior cingulate Cortex" (ACC). Neurons in this Area fired as expected when a rat is in pain by a laser beam learned. In addition, a portion of the cells was active when an animal is observed only under the laser beam to suffering conspecifics.

base for empathy?

from This, the researchers drew a clear conclusion: "We note that in the ACC of rats actually emotional mirror neurons are located," the authors write in the journal "Current Biology". In order to provide new material for almost thirty years, continuing the discussion: we Owe it especially to the mirror neurons, that we can share in others to empathize with them? Mirror cells are the neural Basis for empathy?

Many scientists looked at this question with the discovery of these cells at the beginning of the 90s, answers. At the time, Italian researchers had discovered that in monkeys, some neurons in brain areas that are necessary for movements such as Grasping, responsible, fired even if the animal only a fellow or a researcher – watched this reaching for a peanut.

empathy of the is not studies, show the work of a single cell type in a region of the brain.

That was a fascinating discovery. Still more remarkable however, has seemed, how at ease were published the results of the study of some scientists and the media. Although it went in the monkey experiment, only emotionally neutral grasping movements, were the mirror cells some researchers as soon as the neural basis of human empathy. Further investigation is suggested, at least indirectly, that people mirror have cells. However, whether these neurons are really of considerable importance for the compassion, remained unclear.

nevertheless, Christian Keysers, head of the current study and former employees of the mirror neuron explorers seemed to be, years ago in Interviews and his book, not in far-reaching disturbing conclusions. Other researchers have attributed extraordinary compassion, language, culture and even Religion on the mirror neurons.

they were the pop stars among the cells. Where scientists patterns so far, to questions such as "What is a empathic brain?" or "What is the neural basis for culture?" only vaguely of Networking of many of the brain were able to speak to regions, there was from the point of view of some researchers, suddenly, a concrete and simple answer. Only wore the flaw that it was based only on intuitive conclusions. Compelling, direct evidence through the experiments, however, were not able to offer the admirers of mirror neurons for their far-reaching theories.

Different areas of the Brain involved

"It was tempting to conclude that mirror neurons are the reason why we can empathize with", write Claus lamb and Jasminka Majdandži of the University of Vienna in the journal "Neuroscience Research". The authors belong to those scientists who think it is wrong, this temptation to give in. According to them, mirror neurons represent undisputed, an interesting type of cell. Also it must be in the brain a neural Basis for empathy, not to discredit the critics. But the conclusion is too simplified, according to which only the mirror neurons form the basis for this.

empathy, that does not show many studies, is the work of a single cell type in a limited region of the brain. Rather, different areas of the Brain are the cortex, in the anterior and lateral cerebral, involved, if a man puts himself in the feelings and thoughts of another. In addition, mirror neurons seem to have a plot, such as the handle of the fellows for a peanut, though. But if you understand them and the intention behind it, which is according to several studies, very unlikely – a further step towards the demystification of the mirror cells.

What does this mean for the interpretation of the current measurements in rats? Also, this study allows for different interpretations as regards the role of the mirror neurons. Although the investigated area, the ACC, known to be involved when people are put in others.

Only emotional contagion?

On the crucial question, however, the authors note: Was it really empathy, the feelings of the rats for your pain-ridden counterparts? Or that it was only emotional contagion? The reaction could also explain a kind of Imitation, and prior Learning. Finally, the "compassion" of the observers worked rats only if they had previously experienced, laser pain. It is quite possible that the Freeze resulted in a kind of a pain memory in the observer rat. The activity of the mirror neurons could then be only the result of this emotional contagion.

Gregory Hickok of the University of California, Irvine, is one of the sharpest critics of the mirror neuron hype, even pleads for a less complex Interpretation of the data. The ACC processing simple information about different types of potential hazards: such pain on his own body, to that of a conspecific, as well as the warning may come pain. These signals would be processed in various networks of the brain and resulted in a rigid in a modified behaviour of the shock.

Real empathy on the other hand, it also Keysers’ Team, clearly would require more cognition. The observer rat would have to really understand that not only you, but also the Laser-exposed fish feels pain. The differences may seem at first glance, very fine. However, for the big question, what makes an empathic brain, you have a decisive importance. And they are, especially since they are difficult to study, the science for some time to deal with.

(editing Tamedia)

Created: 30.04.2019, at 18:22

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