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Mirror Neurons


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A Discussion on a New York Times article


The implications of the notion of mirror neurons for psychology are enormous, in light of this the regular understanding of psychological concepts such as bonding, projection, learning, transference, empathy/apathy/sympathy, obsession, compulsion, being 'anal' - all that and more - needs to be reviewed.
Now that we may have some physio-biological understanding behind the process of possible automatic absorption of what children 'see' and how they subsequently 'may' feel prompted to act out what they are watching as they are duplicating and replicating what they are watching, this understanding may even form some basis for discussing serious guidelines or policies - even formal legislation - to limit access to violent depictions in the media of plays, games or TV shows aimed at young children,

Some questions around this

  • Is it necessarily so that children 'w i l l' act out those mirrored observations?

  • There is the expression 'monkey see, monkey do', but with humans, can that as easily be translated into 'child see, child do' or in a broader sense 'human see, human do', or is it for humans perhaps 'human see, human may or may not do'?

  • Is there is a 'control of error' mechanism built into or around this mirror cell infrastructure? Or - if there is no such thing built in - is it that, why we have the conventional and more or less tested moral codes acting as a set of checks and balances? I myself believe that there is something structurally built-in around mirror cells that acts as a 'control of error' (I'm thinking along the lines of Montessorians, to which 'control of error' comes naturally without saying), something of which more conventional moral codes may be watered down copies that have been reprogrammed to attain ulterior goals that do not necessarily benefit the individual itself but something or someone else that is made to feel more important or greater than the individual (kind of like the 'Nazi ideal', cultic zealot, or the 'suicide hero')

  • Are we ready for a possible paradigm shift in education and culture cultivating...?

  • Even some popular notions developed by Piaget, some of his conclusions may also have to be thoroughly reviewed. (Some of which even became urban myths... and urban myths are so resilient... Maybe there are specialized mirror neurons that turn modeling based on flawed thinking - when it is brought forward 'cleverly and craftily' - into urban-mythical post-conceptions or maybe even cultural pre-conceptions.)

  • Can we implant new mirror neurons? Should we?

  • Can we replace those neurons that replicated/duplicated less savory or less acceptable impressions and thus produced less beneficial social behavior? Should we?

  • Can we fix the broken neurons? Should we?

  • Can we now also find out what actually causes autism, obsessive compulsive disorders and even... sociopathic or psychopathic behavior?

A consideration - are certain kinds of mirror cells only proposal cells ?

There is an issue not touched upon in depth yet when it comes to mirror neurons: is there not a certain 'proposal' or 'proto type' quality to what mirror neurons duplicate/replicate?
There could of course be different types of mirror cells, some more absolute in their power to duplicate and force replication, and some only having a function to offer optional action, proposing action, a model that could be copied and duplicated?

So far the way I see it, in humans there seems to be a choice somewhere in the individual:
  • to take the impressions seriously and follow up on them as though they were one's own

  • or to hold them in abeyance for the time being and not choosing - after certain considerations - to act them out in perpetuity and 'thoughtlessly'?

More questions from this:

  • Is that where consciousness comes in and following from that, conscience or moral considerations?

  • And IF there is an 'observer' to all this, a 'witness', how is that witness/observer present, does the possible presence of the witness fade or return after fading?What is it, if so, what makes that occur?

  • How do we forget?

  • If we believe that they can be stopped, how do say 'compulsive actions' or addictions stop, as a result therapy, meditation or whatever we do to become less driven by or attached to our them?

  • What have we done with those mirror neurons when we deactivated, say, addiction (if we did :) if those mirror cells were involved in creating obsessive compulsive behavior?!

Some answer already?

For me one answer is showing up already, let me try it. It has to do with identification, which by itself is GOOD. There is in principle nothing wrong with identification!!! However when individual identification gets adulterated (from the Latin ad-alterare) with 'alien' identities that are pressed upon it by fear and social pressure, the original identification gets tainted or enveloped by the additional exterior descriptive packaging and turns into adverse non authentic behavior... the pseudo self or the usual state of conflict that someone is in, someone who is not 'feeling him or herself' - who lost touch with their core and does not live directly from it.
The tainting or enveloping is brought about by verbal sentencing or ambiguous labeling as follows:
  • When we say "pig" to an oinking animal that we hold on our lap, then the word "pig" is not a lie, it is a NOUN, and 'as that' it is simply a sound that symbolically labels the oinking thing on our lap. "Pig" means nothing more or nothing less than that what it symbolizes. In principle there are no secondary meanings to nouns applied this way... they are 'eigen' labels (German 'eigentlich').
    (Is it that is what the biblical Adam did, so to speak? Was he simply tagging when he was naming?)
    Identification with labels that way IS NOT detrimental, these labels it don't describe, they are sound stamp'.
  • BUT... When we have a child on our lap, and we label it with an ADJECTIVE (one part of a set of dualistic opposites. e.g. good or bad, or dirty or clean) AND/OR a NOUN which the child may have heard (or will hear) also applied as a label to another thing say "PIG" or "PAL" or "SQUIRT" then an self identity conflict is created, as the child will now identify with ambiguity... eventually, especially after a few repeats, leading to not feeling him or herself, the identities are confused and confusable. Identification with such labels ARE detrimental... they describe and alter (the meaning of 'adulterate'), they might lead to judgments away from the simple statements, they are not 'sound stamps', they are something that possibly mark the child as that what it is not: 'Being-who-one-is-that-one-is' is then challenged and traumatized. How to undo that... how to undo that pseudo ambiguous self (German 'uneigentlich sein')? Sitting simply and congruently in oneself (maybe return to the lap and getting simply and unambiguously relabeled, de-identified and re-identified) 'unsaying-oneself', unsaying the conflicted/conflicting identity meanings!!!Maybe the thing to do then is... applying silence that may help the un-wording, erase ambiguous labeling... the echo fading and disappearing.

Echo Neurons instead or Mirror Neurons?

Renaming the mirror neuron phenomenon maybe be an idea worth considering as it might open a wider vista allowing us to find clearer answers sooner or if not that than at least better questions that may lead to better answers:
If we, instead of using the word, "MIRROR" neuron, use the word "ECHO" neuron, we might pick up on a different model for understanding this neuronal duplication phenomenon and come up with questions like:
  • Is there a 'fade' effect? (As in the theory of sound: 'attack', 'sustain', 'decay'.

  • Are there built in volume, loudness or intensity controls?

  • Do initial 'impressions' - when they are verbal or auditory they are called 'engrams' - need to be re-struck like we can strike a bell again, to stay active?

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