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The brain does lighten the mood

January 6, 2017

Neuroscientist, Rizzolatti: "If you see a happy person, the brain does lighten the mood!"

Scientist, opened to mankind the secret of mirror neurons, told how to improve communication between people, as well as new approaches to the treatment of stroke and autism.

Giacomo Rizzolatti – Italian neurobiologist, was born in 1937. He graduated from the University of Padua. In 1992 Professor Rizzolatti made a revolutionary discovery made a revolution in psychology and other Sciences about the structure of the brain. Were discovered mirror neurons — unique brain cells that aktiviziruyutsya when we follow the actions of other people. These cells, like a mirror that automatically "reflect" someone else's behavior we have in mind allow us to feel what is happening as if we committed the action themselves. Now Giacomo Rizzolatti head of the Institute of neurology of the University of Parma and is the honorary doctor of Saint Petersburg state University.

Neuroscientist Giacomo Rizzolatti

EXPERIENCE WITH A GLASS OF WATER

See, I take in hand a glass of water suddenly begins our interview Professor Rizzolatti. You know that I took the glass, right? But not because I managed to remember all the laws of physics and analyze saying that there is a force of gravity, I oppose her and so Understanding of my actions is born you instantly due to the mirror neurons – special cells in our brains that automatically, subconsciously recognize the action that we see. I will say more: if it could scan your brain, then we would notice that when they see my actions you have activated the same neurons as if you have picked up the glass.

But that's not all. Once in France conducted experiments: one group of volunteers was asked to portray different emotions – joy, sadness; were given a sniff of something unpleasant, and the face reflected disgust. People photographed. And then showed images of another group of subjects and recorded their reactions. What do you think? When the appropriate emotions in the photos, the volunteers in the brain activated the same neurons as if they, for example, felt the smell of rotten eggs, heard the good news, or was something sad. This experience is one of the evidence that in addition to mirror neurons "actions" — they are called motor, there is also an emotional mirror neurons. They help us subconsciously, without any mental analysis, and seeing only the facial expressions and gestures to understand the emotions of another person. This is because due to the "reflection" in the brain, we begin to experience the same sensations.

 


HAVE INDIFFERENT PEOPLE ARE NOT ENOUGH NEURONS?

— But everyone is different: there is a very responsive, sensitive. And there are callous and indifferent, which seems to be casehardened. They probably cheated the nature of emotional mirror neurons?

— Hardly. The brain is not so simple. In addition to mirror neurons, of course, our minds will – they can be used to partially extinguish those feelings and emotions, which appear due to the action of mirror neurons.

And a greater role played by social norms in society. If society supports the ideology of selfishness, individualism: care primarily about themselves, their health, material wealth, something you have to be selfish, because it is believed that this will lead to success. In this case, the role of your mirror neuron system is reduced volitional effort, education, habitual behavior.

Motivation is very important. By the way, in many religions is the principle: love others as you love yourself. Do not think that this principle came from God – in fact, it is a natural rule that reflects the biological structure of man and based on the work of mirror neurons. If you don't like people, then living in society will be very difficult. Meanwhile, in Western societies, especially in the last century, was a period of strictly individualistic approach. Now, for example, Italy, France, Germaniastrasse to the understanding that social life is not less important than the personal.

"NO OFFENSE TO MEN"

— If we're talking about differences in the structure of the brain, it is seen that women have mirror neurons in the emotional system more than men-continues the Professor. – This explains the higher ability of women to understanding and compassion. There were experiments, when the volunteers of both sexes showed someone in a state of pain, suffering – the female brain reacted much stronger than men's. It happened as a result of evolution: nature is important to the mother that spends the most time with the child, was emotionally open, empathy, rejoicing, and thereby the mirror principle helps to develop the emotions of the baby.

— So, it is pointless to blame men that they are insensitive, and offended by them?

— Yes, offended by us not to (laughs). It is the nature. By the way, there is another interesting experiment showing the difference between men and women. Organized play: for example, I play with you against some third party, and then you start to deliberately play against me, to cheat. In this case, I, the man, will terribly angry, while the woman considers this behavior an innocent joke. That is, a woman more inclined to forgive, to refer to many things easier in the end. And the man takes the same treason, for example, is much more serious and less easily appeased.

AS THE IDEA PUTS PATIENTS ON HER FEET

— You have discovered mirror neurons for more than 20 years ago – certainly since in addition to the research there have been attempts to use your discovery in medicine?

— Yes, we are working on practical application, including in medicine. It is known that motor mirror neurons make us mentally reproduce the same action that we see — when it's committed by another person, including on a TV screen or computer. So, for example, observed: when people watch a Boxing match, they have tense muscles, and can even clench his fists. This is a typical pyroeffect, and based on it new technology for recovery after stroke, Alzheimer's disease and other diseases in which a person forgets movement. Now we conduct the experiments in Italy and Germany.

The bottom line is this: if the patient the neurons are not completely "broken" and disturbed their work, using visual jolt – showing action required under certain conditions – you can activate the nerve cells, force them to "reflect" movement and start working again as it should. This method is called "therapy of action and observation" (action-observation therapy), in experiments it gives a significant improvement in the rehabilitation of stroke patients.

But the most surprising result was discovered when this therapy is tried to apply to the recovery of people after serious injuries, car accidents – when a person is put into a cast, and then he actually need to re-learn to walk. Usually in such cases long painful gait, the patient is lame, etc. If traditionally, to teach and train, it takes a lot of time. At the same time, if you show a specially crafted movie with corresponding movements in the affected brain activate the necessary motor neurons, and people start to walk normally within a few days. Even for us scientists, it looks like a miracle.

"BROKEN MIRRORS"

— Professor, what happens if a person has damaged themselves mirror neurons? In what diseases it is?

Is actually massively damaging these neurons is not so easy, they are distributed throughout the cortex. If a person has a stroke that damaged only some of these neurons. For example, we know that when damage to the left part of the brain, the person sometimes can not understand the actions of others.

The most serious damage to the mirror neurons are associated with genetic disorders. This most often occurs in autism. Since the brain of such patients broken mechanism "reflection" of the actions and emotions of others, autistic people just can't understand what other people are doing. They are unable to sympathize, because they do not experience similar emotions at the sight of joy or experiences. All this they do not know, can be scary, and therefore patients with autism trying to escape, avoiding contact.

— If you were able to find out that the cause of the disease, scientists are closer to discovering the means of healing?

— We think that it is possible to fully recover autistic children, if you do it at a very young age. At a very early stage, you need to be very strong sensitivity, even sentimentality with such children: the mother, the expert should have a lot to talk with the child, to touch him – to develop and motor, and emotional skills. It is very important to play with your child, but not in competitive games, and in those where success comes only with joint actions: for example, the child pulls the rope – nothing happens, mother pulls, but pulling together, it gets some kind of prize. So the child understands: you and I together is important, not scary, but useful.

THE TOPIC

Who will understand us from our little brothers?

— Most of us have Pets that become family members. We really want to understand their mood as something more meaningful to communicate with them. As far as this is possible thanks to mirror neurons? They have cats and dogs?

— As for the cats, then find out it is very difficult. Would have to implant electrodes to their heads, and carrying out experiments on such animals is forbidden. Here with monkeys and dogs easier: they are more "conscious". If the monkey knows that a certain behavior gets a banana, it will do what interested scientists. With a dog this can also be achieved, albeit difficult. And the cat, as you know, walks in itself and does what he wants - smiling Professor. - When the dog eats, he does it like we do. We understand this because we ourselves have the same effect. But when the dog barks, our brain is not able to understand what it means. But with the monkey we have a lot in common, and they are very well aware of us due to the mirror neurons.

There were also experiments showing that mirror neurons have some songbirds. They in the motor cortex found cells responsible for certain notes. If a person plays these notes, in the brain of a bird activates the appropriate neurons.

THIS WILL COME IN HANDY

How to cheer up yourself and others

— Professor, if we unconsciously perceive the emotions of others, it turns out, when watching horror films or tragic stories on TV, we automatically get the same emotions? For example, upset, and begins to produce the stress hormone cortisol, which breaks us sleep, memory, thyroid, etc.?

— Yes, this happens automatically. Even if you try to calm down, control yourself – it may be only a few to ease the reaction, but will not eliminate it.

But, on the other hand, perhaps you can use the same principle of operation of mirror neurons to cheer up?

— You are right. If you are dealing with a positive, cheerful person, or watching a movie with a hero, your brain is having the same emotions. But if you do want to lift the mood of someone, you have more chance to do it not with tragically sympathetic expression, and with a friendly easy smile.

 

Author: Anna DOBRYUHA

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