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Neurons Mirror the Diametric Mind

Schizophrenics amplify neuronal mirroring, autistics reduce it

One of the most important findings of modern brain research was the discovery of mirror neurons. First observed in monkeys, these are neurons in the motor cortex which fire to produce an action but which are also seen to fire at a much lower level when the subject observes the action carried out by another actor. In people as in monkeys, it seems that seeing someone else perform an act is reflected in the mirror neurons of the cortex. 

Empathy is another type of mirroring, and has been linked with mirror neuron activity. Indeed, here there is a difference between the sexes: women averagely show greater mirror neuron response than men in accordance with their overall tendency to be more empathic. Deficits in mirror neuron activity have also been found in autism, in line with the parallel finding that autistics have deficits in empathy.

Initial studies also reported lower mirror neuron response in schizophrenics. This is exactly what you might have expected because feeling empathy for someone implies accurate and appropriate reflection of that person’s feelings and emotional state. Both autistics and schizophrenics symptomatically misread people’s minds, so finding similar deficits in mirror neuron response in both groups hardly seemed surprising.

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