All that’s separating you from another person is your skin. Remove it and you have removed the barrier between you and other beings. So there is no real independent self aloof from other human beings, inspecting the world and inspecting other people, you are in fact connected not just by facebook and internet, you are connected by your neurons.”
Neuroscientist Vilyanur S. Ramachandran, Ph.D., outlines the fascinating functions of mirror neurons. Only recently discovered, these neurons allow us to learn complex social behaviors, some of which formed the foundations of human civilization as we know it.
Ramachandran is director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego, and an adjunct professor at the Salk Institute. According to his research, we have whole chains of neurons which talk to each other, so
there is no real distinctiveness of your consciousness from somebody else’s consciousness… And this is not mumbo-jumbo philosophy” he says, “it emerges from our understanding of basic neuroscience.”
Watch Ramachandran’s TED Talk [7 min.] about the neurons that shaped civilization:
Ramachandran looks deep into the brain’s most basic mechanisms.
[The human brain is] a lump of flesh of about 3 pounds… but it can contemplate the vastness of interstellar space. It can contemplate the meaning of infinity, ask questions about the meaning of its own existence… It’s the greatest mystery confronting human beings”
Also he notes that
there are 100 billion neurons in the adult human brain. And each one makes something like 1,000 to 10,000 contacts to other neurons in the brain… the number of permutations and combinations of brain activity exceeds the number of elementary particles in the universe.”
By working with those who have specific mental disabilities caused by brain injury or stroke, he can map functions of the mind to physical structures of the brain.
So if you are a patient with a phantom limb, and you see another person’s arm being touched, you feel it in your phantom. And the astonishing part is, if you have pain in your phantom, and you squeeze and massage the other person’s hand, that relieves the pain in your phantom hand, almost as if the mirror neuron were obtaining relief from someone else being massaged.”