A team of Chinese neuroscientists have discovered a small cluster of so-called ‘mirror neuron-mirror neurons’. According to group leader Liu Chuang, the group of neurons in the occipital cortex fire only “when a person sees someone else’s mirror neurons activate”.
The MNMN-cells were discovered when the team was scanning the brain of a patient suffering from epilepsy. “It was a stroke of luck. One of the experimental stimuli happened to be a picture of mirror neurons firing in a monkey. Almost immediately our intracranial electrodes picked up rapid firing from deep within the occipital cortex. We realized immediately this was something big”. Chuang and her collaborators quickly developed a unique novel experimental protocol. Her team had participants viewing single cell recordings of a monkey watching another monkey use a tool. The findings showed that MNMN’s fired only when participants saw firing mirror neurons in the intermediate monkey, but not the tool-using monkey, according to the press-release.
Chuang is currently applying for funding to find out whether there might be a neuron in the brain that only fires when people watch the firing mirror neuron-mirror neurons of people who watch firing mirror neurons of monkeys looking at other monkeys using tools. “Finding this neuron, if it exists, might have implications for empathy, life the universe and everything” says an excited Chuang.