New research data has confirmed that social learning occurs in specific nerve cells in the cerebral cortex of the brain that become fully active only when we observe other people around us!
Researchers in Japan have identified the specific nerve cells responsible for the ability to distinguish between the actions of self and others. The discovery lays the foundations for studying social learning at the level of nerve cells using a new experimental technique.
The work, led by Masaki Isoda from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology and Atsushi Iriki from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, may lead to a better understanding of mental conditions where distinctions between self and others become confused.
Neuroscientists have long known that nerve cells called ‘mirror neurons’ — found mainly in the brain’s cerebral cortex — fire when an individual performs an action or observes one performed by somebody else.
The resulting information can be used as a basis for understanding others and for social interaction but, until now, a critical part of the puzzle was missing. If the same group of neurons fired when performing or observing an action, how could an individual distinguish self from others?