What accounts for the remarkable ability to get inside another person?s head-to know what they are thinking and feeling? It is at the very heart of what it means to be human, creating a bridge between self and others that is fundamental to the development of culture and society. But what is it in the human brain that makes this possible?
In the past decade neurologists have identified mirror neurons in the brain, the ?smart cells? that allow us to understand others, and this discovery will have ramifications in everything from learning to addiction, from political affiliations to consumer choices. Before the discovery of mirror neurons, cognitive scientists assumed we gained access to the feelings of others by theorizing about them; now we know that there is a biological basis for it. First identified in macaques less than 20 years ago, these neurons are transforming scientist?s understanding of topics as diverse as empathy, autism, mob psychology and the development of language.