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Budimir Zdravkovic

PhD student in biochemistry/cancer biology,

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Could mirror neurons be involved in our ability to mimic facial expressions?

VS Ramachandran is brilliant and besides this talk which I've watched a few times I also read one of his books.

It got me thinking of how fundamental mirror neurons are. When we look at people's faces we can recognize certain ques in their expressions which then make us feel a certain way. A very obvious example is when someone smiles at you and you smile back. Notice how easy it is to just smile back, we don't have to even look in the mirror and fix our faces, and make sure we are smiling. It is automatic. This goes for many other more complicated facial expressions which we can simply observe and mimic without being aware of what our own faces are doing. Furthermore facial expressions are certainly more subtle and complicated than other body expressions which we can't seem to mimic automatically, for instance a proper martial art stance appears to involve some body coordination conscious positioning and even a mirror to practice in front of. I believe this kind of transfer of facial expression from one person to another could be facilitated by mirror neurons. How else could we do it? We don't have a mirror in front of us.

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    Sep 18 2012: Another thing to add is that recognizing faces usually allows us to infer the mood of the other person, it seems consistent that mirror neurons which process our feelings for empathy have merged with our brain regions which process the recognition of facial muscle movements in evolution.

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