It is worth noting that mirror neurons have a typical shape and consist of a cell body, dendrites, and an axon. They are located in various structures of the brain (Mazurek & Schieber, 2019). Their location does make sense, given that there are several functions they perform – understanding the intentions and thinking of another subject, empathy, imitation, and learning. When performing each of these functions, structures containing mirror neurons are involved, as well as a different composition of auxiliary structures that do not have mirror properties, for example, as in the case of the superior temporal gyrus when perceiving visual stimuli.
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Other species also have mirror neurons; they are activated both when a certain action is performed, and when another living being performs the same action (Mazurek & Schieber, 2019). Primates and more primitive living beings, including birds, have mirror neurons. It can be assumed that the presence of mirror neurons does make these animals more social since they experience a feeling of empathy with the emotional state of another living being. This occurs without loss of understanding of the external origin of this experience.
The main trend in applied research of mirror neurons includes the study of hypotheses regarding the functions of these neurons (Mazurek & Schieber, 2019). Since the activation of mirror neurons occurs when observing only familiar actions, scientists suggest that mirror neurons are not responsible for understanding intentions but for finding a finished motor program and extracting it from long-term memory. This is the reason for binding certain types of disorders to mirror neurons. In particular, the study of the functions of mirror neurons will make it possible to understand the causes of cognitive impairment and outline ways to treat them. Disabilities include difficulties with learning a foreign language, autism, and diseases related to impaired memory.
Mazurek, K. A., & Schieber, M. H. (2019). Mirror neurons precede non-mirror neurons during action execution. Journal of Neurophysiology, 122(6), 2630-2635.