Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Gallese's idea

I was inspired recently by the work of Vittorio Gallese, the Italian neurophysiologist, who has discovered that when we see someone perform a meaningful action, there are neurones in our  brains that light up in sympathy. These neurones are the ones that we would use if we performed the same action. In our brains, we mirror each other's actions! He suggests that this is the physical basis of empathy. The moral, social and educational implications of his work are immense. What, for instance, do we do to others when we perform an action? What should our actions be, and how should they be performed? The list of questions goes on.
He goes on to argue that there are some conditions, such as schizophrenia, or autism, where these so-called "mirror neurones" don't do their work properly, and that study of this aspect of brain physiology could be a useful step forward in the treatment of those psychoses.
It was Gallese's work that gave me the idea for the work in progress on the blog. It is a meditation on aspects of human relations, set mostly in a clinic - Gallese's "shared manifold" or healing space - where human interactions are somewhat separate from terrible world events, but not untouched by them.

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