How our brain says “I feel your pain”

Intresting Wall Street Journal piece Friday 8/17/07 on the neurological science of empathy. 

A mirror system in the “brain’s motor cortex, which orchestrates movement and muscle control, the cells fire when we perform an action and also when we watch someone else do the same thing. When someone smiles or wrinkles her nose in distaste, motor cells in your own brain associated with those expressions resonate in response like a tuning fork, triggering a hint of the feeling itself.”

It has relevance for social capital as well as autism (scientists are not sure whether autistic individuals lack this important mirror system or whether the mirror system cells receive faulty data).  Studies have also shown that our levels of empathy are higher to those who share our ethnic identity.

Article “How Your Brain Allows You to Walk In Another’s Shoes” (WSJ, Robert Lee Hotz, p. B1, 8/17/07) is avilable here.  And the book Mirroring People is due out next year by Dr. Marco Iacoboni at UCLA.


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