(2) Qとx軸上の点R(3√3/2,0)とを結ぶ直線がCと交わる点でQとは異なるものをSとする。線分SRの長さを求めよ。 [神奈川大]
The other day, I heard a scientific term that was new to me.
It was in a TV movie about a brilliant detective who always caught the bad guys because he was able to empathize and understand criminals like no one else. How did he do this? Because he had an abundance of “mirror neurons.” What? Was this science fiction? I’d never heard of a mirror neuron, so of course, I ran to Google.
Neurons are cells in our bodies. Each of us have hundreds of neuron systems for different functions — such as to carry sensory information to the brain from our eyes and ears, or to control voluntary muscular activity such as speaking. Scientists consider neurons to be the most diverse of all body cells, even communicating with each other. They believe that neuron cells make us unique individuals.
Mirror neurons are real, but a highly controversial subject. In 1992, neuroscientist Giacomo Rizzolatti and his team inserted tiny electrodes into the brains of macaque monkeys to learn how the brain sends messages to the muscles used in moving the hand. As suspected, very specific neurons fired when the monkeys actively brought food to their mouths with their hands. The shocking discovery came when the monkeys watched the scientists eat at lunchtime. The same neurons fired when monkeys simply watched the humans make a similar gesture. The results were identical: What monkeys see, monkeys do. This “mirroring” of activity led to new studies that finally came into public awareness by 2000.
One neuroscientist, V.S. Ramachandran, loved mirror neurons so much, he ignited controversy. He claimed they were responsible for human powers of empathy, language and wholly shaped the emergence of human culture, including the use of tools and fire. When mirror neurons don’t work properly, Ramachandran believed, the result was autism.
Other theories say that mirror neurons in human infants enable learning behavior before 12 months of age. Psychologists have theorized that neurons can mirror not only physical activity, but the intentions and emotions behind the actions as well. Even metaphysicians got into the act, projecting mind-reading influences.
However, generally speaking, 20 years later the scientific community leans toward skepticism about the validity of many of these claims. The theory that defective mirror neurons cause autism is all but debunked by a series of studies showing little difference between the autistic and non-autistic neuron systems.
However, even some strong critics admit these neurons probably play a role in enabling imitation. Much research remains to be done on what exact behaviors rely on these neurons.
I’m intrigued by these mysterious neurons. But, regarding my movie detective, it looks like his superpowers were indeed a bit of science fiction.