„Watch and learn! ”— the science behind watching

Something called Mirror Neurons

Photo by Andre Mouton on Unsplash

Mirror Neurons

  • Introduction
  • What Mirror Neurons do?
  • How were they discovered?
  • Influences over language, behavior, and diseases


Sounds and music can be transcripted into musical notes on a paper. Everyone who knows how to read the paper can play that song exactly how the composer wants them to, regardless of their homeland.

When learning a new action, we first need to watch someone doing it. But why we need this visual approach this much?

Why no one can write down, for example, a dance move in a way that all the readers can understand and perform the exact same move?

First of all, movement it’s still too complex for a written language, but there is another tool we use to learn. A tool that we carry with us since the very beginning of homo sapiens and that sciences reefers to as Mirror Neurons.

What Mirror Neurons Do

Photo by Dewang Gupta on Unsplash

A Mirror Neuron is a special type of neuron that's working both when an individual observes an action or executes the same actions.

In other words, the actions that we observe are, “mirrored” inside our heads just as strong as we are actually performing it.

If you are watching someone playing football, you are actually learning(to some degree) how to play football yourself.

These neurons were found by scientists in various brain parts, like the Premotor Cortex and the Postcentral gyrus.


In the late 80s, a group of Italian scientists wanted to study the role of the Premotor Cortex in the hand and mouth movement of the macaque monkeys.

For this, they’ve attached various electrodes to the macaque's heads. As the experiment was ongoing and they had to feed the monkeys, they’ve noticed intense activity in some brain aria even when the monkeys were only observing. As the monkeys received the food, they’ve copied the movement of their human homolog.

The Italian scientists noticed it was the same brain aria used in action as it was used in observing.

Language, behavior, and associated diseases

Photo by Fausto Marqués on Unsplash

Later studies performed on humans revealed that we develop these neurons in our first year of life.

Even they seem to have a rudimentar “copy-pasted” functionality, they turned out to be quite important. They seem to play a very important part when it comes to understanding body language, or even more complex movements, like Sign Language.

The mirror neurons help us associate the meaning with the signs or the movements. Even if we close our eyes, these neurons associate sounds with their specific actions.

For instance, we can tell when someone is hammering by listening to the notice. As we understand the sound, mirror neurons are telling us what actions(also their speed and intensity) the worker performs in order to produce that sounds.

Mirror neurons are also suspected to influence or generate some human qualities, like empathy. Through mirror neurons, we can imagine how it feels to “be in someone else's shoes”.

Ass we mirror the pain of others inside our heads, we understand it faster and better.

Studies also proved that human that can be described as more empathic have a much intense mirror neuron activity.

Mirror neuron dysfunctions are associated with autism.

We hope these articles helped you understand better how we function as humans! Stay informed.

Good thoughts, good words, good deeds.



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