Friday, October 13, 2006

good vibrations

Turns out the hippies were right about this one too:
A widely dispersed class of brain cells that operate like neural WIFI, mirror neurons track the emotional flow, movement and even intentions of the person we are with, and replicate this sensed state in our own brain by stirring in our brain the same areas active in the other person.

Mirror neurons offer a neural mechanism that explains emotional contagion, the tendency of one person to catch the feelings of another, particularly if strongly expressed.

This brain-to-brain link may also account for feelings of rapport, which research finds depend in part on extremely rapid synchronization of people’s posture, vocal pacing and movements as they interact. In short, these brain cells seem to allow the interpersonal orchestration of shifts in physiology.

Reviewing decades of such data, Lisa M. Diamond and Lisa G. Aspinwall, psychologists at the University of Utah, offer the infelicitous term “a mutually regulating psychobiological unit” to describe the merging of two discrete physiologies into a connected unit.

To the degree that this occurs, [the doctors] argue, emotional closeness allows the biology of one person to influence that of the other.
From «Friends for Life: An Emerging Biology of Emotional Healing» in Tuesday’s New York Times.

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